A dreamer, a writer and a burgeoning star: Three Asheville area up-and-comers talk about breaking into TV, movies


Geno Segers

With all the talk about movie-making in Asheville this summer, I recently sat down with Colton Daugherty, Claire Clayton and Geno Segers to talk about their experiences in the entertainment business. All three have strong connections to the Asheville area, and all three on making their own way in television and film.

The meeting was set up by my friend Gene Ellison, an Asheville attorney, former Asheville City Council member and an advocate of the film industry in Western North Carolina. Ellison is worried about the impact that changes to North Carolina’s 25 percent refundable tax credit for the film industry could have on movie-making in the Tar Heel state. Lawmakers are working out details as part of their budget negotiations. Currently, any production that spends more than $250,000 gets the refund, with a payout cap of $20 million for most (and no limit for television series.)

Proposed changes would do away with the tax credit and replace it with a grant fund that film companies could tap into. Lawmakers are also looking to cut the amount of money the state spends to promote films.

Ellison wants to see North Carolina remain competitive when it comes to incentives for film productions in the state. (The most recent example is the Loomis Fargo/”unnamed armored car movie” filming in Western North Carolina this summer. The production stars Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig and others.) So Ellison brought together Segers, Clayton and Daughterty for a chat. All three are working on careers in their respective entertainment industry fields and are good examples of the impact the film industry has on real people.

Geno Segers is the most experienced and successful of the three. The former Western Carolina University football star who grew up in Winston-Salem first sought a career in professional sports, in everything from football and New Zealand rugby to cliff diving. But on a whim, Segers auditioned and landed a role in the Australian production of The Lion King. He performed the role of Mufasa in Australia, China and North America.From there, Segers auditioned for Pair of Kings, a Disney show targeting a young audience. It premiered in 201 and starred Disney kids Mitchel Musso and Doc Shaw as fraternal twins who end up as kings of a Pacific island nation. Segers plays their royal advisor.

Most recently, Segers landed a regular role in the Cinemax series Banshee, which is filming in Charlotte this summer.

“You’ve got to know your niche, and my package is unique. I’m 6′ 3″ and I’m ethnically ambiguous,” said Segers, who also has a deep, attention-getting voice. “I learned very early that you have to pinpoint what you’re selling. I’m selling charming Alpha male,” he said.

Colton Daugherty falls on the opposite end of the career spectrum as a 20-something who moved to California about a year ago to pursue his dream as an actor and comedian. Daugherty is the son of Brad Daugherty, the 7-foot-tall Black Mountain native who played basketball at UNC Chapel Hill and in the NBA. Colton Daugherty went to school at Asheville Christian Academy and flirted with his own college basketball career before heading West.

“I’ve been doing auditions, taking acting classes, working on my own screenplay (it’s a comedy about a guy who falls in love with a woman in a cult, he says) and pursuing film,” said Daugherty, who is 6′ 8″.

Segers told Daugherty that comedians actually have the fastest route to stardom, and he encouraged him to continue. “You have to be able to go on stage and find the quirks” about yourself and others and share those, Segers said.

Clayton falls in the middle. She attended the Asheville School and then Savannah College of Art and Design, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional and creative writing. But she said she fell in love with film classes and went back to earn a master’s degree in cinemas studies. Her father is Don Clayton, CEO of Festiva Resorts.

“I don’t want to be an actress. I’m way too awkward,” said Clayton, who said she is fascinated by the storytelling aspects of film. She’s been working as a production assistant on the set of a reality TV show called Fit to Be Wild, and she has also been working on the Loomis Fargo flick this summer.

“I like the producing part of film and TV,” said Clayton, who added that she’s writing a treatment for a television show about mermaids. “I really into the research of water mythology right now,” she said.

Image link for Geno Segers.