Aug 1, 2014
11:15 AM
Health & Wellness

Shawshank Redemption Actor William Sadler Supports Healing the Children

Shawshank Redemption Actor William Sadler Supports Healing the Children

William Sadler

William Sadler has been a recognizable face in Hollywood for decades–most famously as the convict Heywood in The Shawshank Redemption and recently as the President of the United States Matthew Ellis in Iron Man 3.

This summer he won Best Actor in a Feature Film for his work in The Historian at the Long Island International Film Expo. The film, which is a directorial debut for Miles Doleac, won Best First Feature Film and actor John Cullum won for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature

Sadler says he was interested in the movie because, “there was a challenge there.” He plays an aging professor and department chair at a university who deals with his waning literary career, aging father and young colleague with whom he competes for the affections of a grad student.

“My character was a bit of an asshole, very hard-nosed,” says Sadler. “It would be easy to not like him at all, and I felt like there was a challenge…The fact that he’s the son of a man with Alzheimer’s brings out a whole other side that made him an interesting character, for me anyway.” 

Now, the actor who lives in upstate New York, is lending his celebrity status to the New Milford-based charity, Healing the Children Northeast, which is committed to providing free surgical, dental and medical treatment for children in need. When he was approached by Executive Director Cheyrisse Boone three years ago at a Fourth of July party, Sadler was immediately interested in getting involved.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen something that’s changed lives so dramatically for the better,” says Sadler. “You watch the children who are helped by these surgeons…and the faces of the parents. You hand them back this child that a moment before was going to be defined by this deformity on their face. Those operations are done routinely here in the states. They’re not done routinely in Peru.”

“It was an easy sell,” says Boone. “He was really impressed with the organization and what we do. He definitely wanted to sink his teeth into something. I happened to talk to him at the right time.”

Before Sadler, actress Lynn Redgrave was Healing the Children Northeast’s spokesperson until her passing in 2010. Boone says it was difficult to find an interested celebrity since they are a rather small chapter of a larger organization.

Since signing on in 2012, Sadler has been the guest speaker at a number of Healing the Children events, and was present at the ribbon cutting of the organization’s newly opened thrift shop in New Milford (above). Boone says the thrift shop helps to raise funds for their domestic programming. Sadler is planning to do a public service announcement in the coming months.

“If you know you can do something to help with that, you have to step forward and do it, don’t you?” asks Sadler.

Healing the Children is a non-profit, non-partisan, volunteer organization with 14 chapters across the United States that plans medical trips around the world. According to its website, more than 42,700 patients have been helped to date.

There are three branches of the Northeast chapter's organization–they make international medical and dental trips, they bring children to the states for procedures pro bono and they provide services to families in the U.S. who cannot afford them.

(Sadler and Boone with Dr. Manoj Abraham at Westchester Magazine’s Heroes Luncheon, provided by Healing the Children Northeast, left.)

The Northeast branch’s trips have primarily been to Latin America, according to Boone. A group of about 40 volunteers traveled to Peru in May to provide cleft pallet surgeries to children. They were able to help 97 children through 100 surgeries in just one week on that trip.

“We’re very happy with that trip,” says Boone.

A group of volunteers will travel to Managua, Nicaragua, on August 6 and Santa Marta, Colombia, on October 18.

“I would encourage people to check out the Healing the Children website and Facebook page,” says Sadler. “I think people would be surprised how easy it is to get involved; how good it feels to help.”

The actor says he will remain committed to the organization, “as long as they will have me.”

“If Tom Hanks calls up and says, ‘I want to be your spokesperson,’ I would happily step aside because he can bring more attention,” he says with a laugh.

Sadler has never been in show business for the attention, his primary focus has always been the acting. It was a community play at the Amherst Theatre outside of Buffalo that set him on his path. He was challenged to examine both himself and people around him, which was a task he found exciting, and still does. He worked in the theatre for 15 years before making the leap to television and movies. It’s a move he thinks was critical to his craft.

“I used to wonder if I had gone out to Hollywood when I was 19, when I was cute and young, I’m sure I would have stumbled into a sitcom or something. I don’t think I would have been the actor I am,” he says.

Today he takes parts that push him and stories that have many layers. Like the character Heywood in the 1994 classic The Shawshank Redemption starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. It’s the role he’s perhaps best known for.

He’s also starred in Die Hard 2 with Bruce Willis, which was a role he jokes he’s been preparing for his whole life.

“I grew up on a farm outside of Buffalo and I spent my entire youth running around the barn, diving out of the hayloft with a BB gun…I found that by the time I got to the movies it was like I had spent my whole childhood rehearsing to dive out of the hayloft and come up shooting. In Die Hard 2 there was a scene where we all had automatic weapons. We did the first take and the sound man took me aside and said, “Bill, you don’t have to make that sound with your mouth.’ Apparently I had been making [shooting] sounds.”  

Recently he finished an episode of The Flash and he will return to his role as Jack McGarrett on the television show Hawaii Five-0.

“I still get a huge kick out of creating these moments,” says Sadler. “Creating these characters that live and interact is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”

For more information on Healing the Children Northeast visit their website at htcne.org or their Facebook page

To learn more about William Sadler follow him on Twitter.

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, onFacebook and on Google +

 

Shawshank Redemption Actor William Sadler Supports Healing the Children

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