Hawk in Hollywood

Anton Narinskiy spent five years at Iowa trying to knock heads on the football field. These days, the Russian immigrant is trying to turn them as an actor in Hollywood.

Anton Narinskiy rises at six just about every morning. The former Iowa football player heads to the gym daily. It's the same routine he began in college a decade ago.

Unlike former teammates in the NFL, Narinskiy prepares his body for a different role. This Hawkeye is tackling Hollywood.

Iowa Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle built up Narinskiy to a 280-pound defensive tackle. He's transformed himself into a chiseled 205 hunk who's worked on Days of Our Lives.

Narinskiy has experienced a lot in his 29 years. His parents, Andrey and Svetlana, brought he and his two siblings from Russia to the United States during the mid-'90s in hopes of a better life.

"One of the main reasons for doing so was so we had that freedom to pursue all of the opportunities we didn't have in Russia," Anton said. "My parents always gave us that freedom to choose. We came to America because it's the best country to do that, to try different things and do whatever you want. You can't really fail. It's too strong of a country. You have so many opportunities and get such strong support that things will work out."

Approaching life in that manner placed Narinskiy on a path to graduating Summa Cum Laude from Kenston High in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, becoming a nationally ranked prep wrestler and football player, and academic and athletic success at Iowa. It's positioned him to hit it big in the ultra-competitive acting world.


Narinskiy was a driven student. He advanced so quickly through high school that he attended a local community college in Chagrin Falls for all of his classes his senior year, earning 35 college credits. He attained a bachelor's degree in accounting after three years at Iowa and went to graduate school his final two years there.

After exhausting his eligibility at the Outback Bowl following the 2008 season, Narinskiy was set up for a bright future in the accounting field. Ersnt and Young, one of the country's "big four" firms, jumped at the opportunity to hire him.

Narinskiy was brought into the company's Cleveland office, 30 miles from Chagrin Falls. Shortly after arriving there, he was handed a big project in Detroit. The country was experiencing a recession and the automobile industry was hit hard.

"GM (General Motors) filed for bankruptcy and received a $50 billion loan from government," Narinskiy said. "We were brought in to oversee this contract they had with the government in terms of their requirements."

Narinskiy lived in a Detroit hotel. He woke up in the morning, went to GM for work and returned to his room for bed.

"That was my life. I didn't know anybody. It was not for me. I was miserable," he said.

Narinskiy looked for something else. Acting always attracted him. He began taking night classes while working on his accounting job during the day.

"My life and passion before that was football. I was focused on football and my academics.The way that I'm built, I'm not big on having hobbies. Once I like something, I just dive into it 100 percent. I knew I loved (acting) when I started doing it. I got involved with the entire acting scene in Detroit, which at the time was very active because with big tax breaks there, there were a lot of films being shot right in Detroit. That was fortunate for me because that's right when I was starting out," he said.

Narinskiy transitioned into acting full time and quit his job at Ernst and Young. The news surprised his parents.

"My brother and sister were already in the arts. Neither had the traditional collegiate education. So, I was kind of their only shot at going to traditional, standard path. At first, there certainly was some hesitation but they never told me not to. They were always supportive. They knew that it could work out because I work hard and that once I get my mind set on something, I'm going to do it," Anton said.

Narinskiy acted in commercials and independent projects shot in Detroit. Then he landed a role in the futuristic, science-fiction film, Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly of Lost fame. Anton played a security guard in the Academy Award nominate picture.

The acting bug had bit Narinskiy.

"I said if I'm going to do this then I've got to go west. I packed my car and drove to LA."

That happened in early 2011.


Narinskiy has found steady work in Tinseltown. He's appeared in hit TV shows Criminal Minds and Grey's Anatomy as well as recurring roles on the popular soap operas, Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless.

As the lead, Narinskiy played the part of Warner Stone, a young soldier wounded in Afghanistan who returns to the U.S. to find his hometown ravaged by poverty, in the '13 independent film, Rabid. He portrayed a waiter in Dumbbells with Jaleel White, known best for being Urkel in the hit TV show, Family Matters.

Narinskiy has appeared in commercials for products like Snickers, Gatorade, Gillette, Comcast, and Adidas, as well as a few NCAA spots. You can check out his credits here or peruse his new website here.

"My goal is to be the best actor in the world. There is no other goal and I will keep working until I get there," Anton said.

Narinskiy has worked with Academy Award winner Robin Williams and multiple times with James Franco, who has starred in many projects, including the '10 film, 127 Hours.

"When I worked with Robin Williams it was cool. It was one of my first roles with someone of that caliber, that big of an actor. It was cool because I saw his process, his generosity and the way he worked with everyone. It was great. I've worked quite a bit with James Franco and that's been interesting, too. As an artist, you learn so much from him because he pursues it all with such an artistic vision," Narinskiy said.

The competitiveness and freedom of acting energizes Narinskiy. It's a career that requires self motivation, something he learned while playing football at Iowa.

"There's a huge correlation there. Everything from discipline to time management and the personal drive that you learn while you're there is important. You get to college and for the first time you have to get yourself out of bed for a workout at 6 a.m. Then you have class and then you have practice. It's really the same idea. There is no office to go to (for acting). There is nobody sitting there telling you what to do. There's no boss or anybody in charge. You wake up and you get to work. You can't just sit and wait. It's so important to be proactive. I'm always working on the craft. I'm constantly reaching out to directors, casting directors, agents, managers, producers or other actors. I'm trying to absorb as much information as i can; to learn; to get on set; to make contacts; to get in the door; whatever I can do. I have a work schedule but I certainly work more than 40 hours a week at it. I can get up at 6 a.m. and I'm going until 10 p.m, nonstop. ."

Doyle likes to say that if a person is not 15 minutes early to an appointment, he's late.

"Once that's instilled in you, you have that work ethic. With Doyle's discipline and training, I'm always early and my time management is always very efficient. That's huge," Narinskiy said.

Narinskiy spoke with Iowa teammates Rob Bruggeman and Gavin McGrath last week. He said he's stayed in frequent contact with Matt Kroul, Mitch King and Adam Shada, among others. He's seen a lot of Brandon Meyers, who works out in Los Angeles during the NFL offseason.

"You build a family and that stays with you forever. I hope we never lose that. We're trying to plan a trip to get together. We're coming up on our 10-year anniversary of our first (Iowa) camp," Narinskiy said.

Narinskiy credits Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and many members of the staff for helping him build a strong foundation. He's thankful for his time in Iowa City.

As several of his projects go through production and he hopes for pilots to be picked up, Narinskiy plows forward with the intensity that earned him scholarship offers from Iowa, Stanford and Northwestern, among others. He's a Hawkeye in Hollywood.

"There's an Iowa way. I've met so many other people from other programs. I'm not going to sit and talk negatively about any other specific program, but there is just a certain way Iowa does things. There's just a sense of honesty, loyalty and doing things right. Sometimes that's tough at first but in the long run it always wins. It can be a little different in Los Angeles. So, having that Midwest, Iowa mentality helps a lot. It keeps me grounded," he said.

Anton Narinskiy Reel from Anton Narinskiy on Vimeo.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories