Monty Hobbs chews on the rubber tip of a fruit-flavored electronic cigarette as he eyes an audition reel, a smartphone cradled between a shoulder and ear as he rapid-fires numbers to the person on the other end of the line.
“Remember, this is an independent film and I have to bring it in at or under budget,” he admonishes, crinkling his brows as he leans back in a worn leather chair in the old Thornton warehouse now turned into the production offices for “Tarnished Notes,” the soon-to-be-filmed movie based on a 1984 murder in Clinton.
The Roseboro native is serving as line producer on the film, the first time he has stepped behind the camera since he began his acting career in 2012.
For Hobbs, the transition from actor to producer isn’t a trade, it’s an add-on to a film career he hopes will continue to flourish for many years to come.
He characterizes his job as line producer as the hold-the-line man, Mr. No, the person who ensures that the film comes in on time and under budget. “It’s a stressful job, but it’s a great one to add to my acting arsenal,” Hobbs asserted.
The Lakewood High graduate didn’t start out hankering for the bright lights of Hollywood. That came later.
Born in Roseboro to Janet and Radford Hobbs, the 37-year-0ld’s roots are steeped in the Sampson County soil. His father, a World War II veteran and a once town commissioner, owned a number of businesses before his death, including one of the first arcades in the town. His father and grandfather, Alfonso Hobbs, built the Ford dealership in Roseboro, and his mother owned two antique shops.
The Hobbs family instilled a tremendous work ethic in the young Monty, one he carries with him today.
His parents died when Hobbs was young, and once he finished at Lakewood, Hobbs decided it was time to move on, leaving Sampson County in 1998 and moving to Wilmington where he dabbled in the restaurant business, serving as manager of Bennigans and Carrabas. With those experiences under his belt, he decided to get into the bar business with an Irishman, opening the Dubliner in Wilmington, a pub that remains open today.
It was in North Carolina’s Port City that Hobbs first got involved in the movie business.
“I was catering on the set of ‘One Tree Hill’ and I just loved all the activity that was going on. It was real hustle and bustle, but fun too.”
During that time he was asked to read for the part of an Air Force sergeant on Tree Hill. “I didn’t get it,” Hobbs recalled, a frown forming at the corner of his mouth. “Honestly, I was devastated. But, the acting bug had bit and I was hooked.”
With what he called sheer determination and a lot of due diligence, Hobbs tried to erase the bad taste of being turned down, focusing, instead, on what it would take to win a speaking role on an episodic.
It came when he was asked to play a doctor on “Revenge.”
Hobbs has never looked back. In September, 2012, he got his first major movie role in an Independent film entitled “A Moment with You,” followed by the yet-to-be-released comedy “The Greatest Sex I’ve Ever Had.”
He landed other roles along the way on shows like “The Millers,” “Secrets and Lies,” “Under the Dome” and “Eastbound and Down,” before getting the recurring part as a deputy on “Sleepy Hollow,” the role he considers his biggest acting accomplishment to date.
He’s also had movie spots in Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven,” the Hillary Swank film “Mary and Martha,” and opposite Colin Firth in “Arthur Newman.”
Later this month, on Sept. 30, the Sampson native can be seen as Steve Cantrell, the bar owner once suspected of murdering Ft. Bragg soldier Kelly Bordeaux, in the Discovery ID series “Swamp Murders.” The show airs at 9 p.m.
“I was thrilled when I got the part,” Hobbs said about the show, which took him to Atlanta for filming.
His acting career has sent him to many locations. In addition to Atlanta, he’s been to New Orleans, Florida, Tennessee and, of course, Wilmington, where he lives. And he’s loved every minute of it, short of the time it takes him away from his wife, Brooke and their 3-year-old son Lex, the “light of my life.”
“Acting is wonderful, but being a dad, oh that’s the greatest thing ever,” Hobbs admitted, acknowledging that as much as he loves being in front of the camera, and now behind it, being away from his family takes a toll. “I try to see them as often as I can, and do things with them as many weekends as I can. That’s important. In fact, nothing is more important.”
“Tarnished Notes” has brought him home again, another reason he jumped at the chance to be a part of a film he calls unique in nearly every aspect. “It is a compelling story, written by a local author and using so much local talent. I really wanted to be a part of this project.
“I initially was called to audition for one of the leads in the movie, but after talking with Mitchell (executive producer Mitchell Maxwell) and Tom (director Tom Avitabile), I thought taking on the job of line producer would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about the business side.”
He is so invested in the film, in fact, that he turned down an audition with Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame to work on this project. “This is important to me,” he attested.
“It gives me a chance to come back to a county that I left with a bad taste in my mouth because of losing my family. Now I have a chance to bring something positive, give Sampson a taste of the allure of Hollywood and catch up with a lot of really good friends.”
And it’s his plan to do everything within his power to make the movie a success. “I want this to be something the whole county can be proud to say was filmed in Sampson.”
His new role has admittedly been a challenge, but nothing Hobbs can’t handle. In fact, he’ll step around the camera in “Tarnished Notes,” for a while, too, taking on a small role in the film, as requested by Avitabile and Maxwell.
“I didn’t want to take on too big a role, but I’m sure I can handle a smaller one and still do the things I’m required to do as a line producer,” he stressed.
Flipping through a binder detailing locations where the film will be shot, Hobbs leans back in his chair and stares out into the warehouse, quickly filling up with props and office supplies. He turns reflective.
The movie business, he said, is not all glitz and glamour, as some might think, but it is a way of life and one he loves to his core.
“Through the pain of losing my parents at a young age (he was 5 when his dad died and 19 when his mother passed), I knew I had to find an outlet. Look, I raised hell to begin with. I had no guidance and I was spiralling out of control. Acting grounded me in many ways.
“It let’s me be anyone I want to be. It’s a form of self-expression. I really can’t describe it. It’s an escape from reality. No other job offers that and I am really, really blessed to be able to do something I love this much.”
He takes another draw from the electronic cigarette and smiles. “If I had to give aspiring actors, young and old, any advice, I’d tell then not to ever sell themselves short. If they want to act, they need to go for it and see where it takes them. Grab the opportunity and don’t give up. I didn’t, and thank the good Lord it’s paying off for me.”
Hobbs is currently represented by Reel Sisters Talent Agency out of Wilmington. Follow him on Facebook by searching for Monty Hobbs.