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Nate Banks’ acting experience serves him well in court

January 25, 2013 • Local News


Nathaneal “Nate” Banks (Courtesy Photo)

Nathanael “Nate” Banks is a Chicago native who has decided to throw his lot in with the people of Roswell.

He works the Public Defenders office, and spoke glowingly of his job and his coworkers. “They have treated me like family. The judges and sheriffs are awesome. The people in the clerk’s office are great. There is a gentlemanly relationship with the State that you don’t in other areas.”

Both an actor and an attorney, Banks is the son of a Hyde Park University of Chicago professor and Freedom Fighter, August Robert Banks. His father participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Banks speaks of his father with both awe and affection. “When I think of what he did and what he sacrificed, I am humbled.”

However, the young Banks also had a dream that didn’t include anything practical. The dream was acting. His father insisted his son get proper education, which would lead to a proper job, and Banks received his law degree from DePaul University.

He started his own practice, and also ventured into the world of acting. He got his inspiration from his uncle. “My uncle Clifford Freeney did a couple of movies, and I decided if he can do it, so can I.”

Banks estimates that he has acted in more that 30 gospel and inspirational plays in the Chicagoland area.

The first was The Pawn Shop where Banks got the lead. He described it as a stomach-tightening experience. “It was my first play and I got the lead. All I could think was I’ve never acted before and I got the lead. On opening day we got a standing ovation.”

As his reputation grew, Banks began to get calls for other acting jobs, including Chicago Code, a television series that aired on the Fox network. “It was about corruption in the Chicago Police Department. I was in the premier episode.” And he kept getting called back. Altogether, he appeared in seven episodes.

Then he was cast in Chicago Fire. Banks played Craig in Episode 7, “Two Families.” The show aired on Nov. 21.

He has appeared in major motion pictures — Transformers 3 and Contagion — and five independent movies. “In Transformers 3, I was one of the businessmen running around getting shot. I think I died in that one.”

Banks said he had a small scene with Matt Damon in Contagion. He turned down a part in Superman.

Of the independent motion pictures, one called East Chicago will be premiering in Los Angeles in the near future. “I play a half-black, half-Italian mobster. I’m a little worried about what the churchfolk will think about that one. I don’t play a nice guy.”

In one short film, Stemma, Banks plays a police officer, and he got lead. He said Stemma proved so popular it is about to be turned into a feature-length film where he will again play lead.

His most recent endeavor was the Game Day commercial playing on ESPN, advertising The Ohio State University football team.

Banks discovered he was able to make a modest living on his acting, and he also realized that acting time was beginning to intrude on his work as an attorney. “Around three years ago, I had to make a decision between law and acting,” he said. Law won. “Law is my profession. I really wanted to be a public defender. I love court. I like doing trials. It’s all part of my giving back to the community.”

He cast his gaze away from Chicago and landed in Roswell. “You can’t throw a rock in Chicago without hitting an attorney in the back of the head. I like it here. You have a proper courthouse in Roswell. It’s a big and imposing building, as it should be.”

Banks admits that public defenders can get a bad rap, but he argues that everyone deserves a fair trial and not everybody is guilty.

He is pleased with the acceptance he has received in the Roswell legal community. “They made the transition easy for me.”

Banks is not all acting and law. He says his sense of service to the community drew him to Roswell. In Chicago, it found its expression as a street preacher and as coach. A father of two, he coached his eldest son’s football team. “We won the football city championship (Hammond, Ind.) five years in a row. I was coach for three of the five years. I’m proud of that.”

He has not given up on acting. However, the law remains his career. Banks brings his experience as an actor into the courtroom. “Being a trial attorney is a bit like being an actor, you are always in front of an audience.”

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