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What do you get when a famous actor visits Ringling College of Art and Design? A jam-packed few days that, it turns out, are just as educational for the celebrity as they are for the students.

In this case, the famous actor we’re referring to is Dylan McDermott, who visited RCAD last week as part of its Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab—a collaboration between the college and Future of Films, which was founded by David Shapiro and Sarasota resident Sam Logan.

“We’re in the fourth year of the program now,” Shapiro says, “and it has exceeded our expectations. The idea is to mix academics with real-world training—the hope being that the kids here at Ringling get the best experience to help them be successful, and that we can help build a network for them. And the community here is phenomenal: Supportive and extraordinarily giving, like I’ve never seen in the world before.

That’s a sentiment that McDermott echoes: “I didn’t know much” about Ringling College, he admits, “but after this week, I’m highly impressed. This is a serious place.”

McDermott’s own love of film and acting dates back to his teens, thanks in no small part to his stepmother Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. It was Ensler who encouraged him to pursue acting, and “I took to it pretty quickly,” he says with a wry smile.

And though he’s perhaps most well-known for his Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated stint as Bobby Donnell on The Practice, McDermott has also headlined seasons one and two of FX’s popular American Horror Story, as well as made a somewhat-unexpected comedic turn in the Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign. “I love to do it all, to push myself,” he says. “When it comes to picking projects, I take into account the people who are involved”—he’d love to collaborate with Paul Thomas Anderson or Martin Scorsese someday—“but really, it comes down to instinct.”

So what’s next for McDermott? He’ll star in Jason Blum’s Mercy, based on the novel by Stephen King, as well as Shane Weisfeld and David Buelow’s Freezer and, next month, Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen with Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. He shot a pilot for CBS—Hostages, which co-stars Toni Colette—and he’d love to continue working on American Horror Story.

He’d also like to direct more. “I haven’t done that as much as I’d like to,” he says, “but that will happen.”

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