Enterprise native Tony Shepherd left his mark on EHS football and is now looking to make his mark on the film and television industry.
Shepherd grew up in Enterprise and graduated from EHS in 2003 before going to UAB and then eventually the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Calif., where he earned a master’s degree in motion pictures and television.
Since that time Shepherd has worked on a number of commercials, infomercials and music videos and with studios like Dreamworks and Sony. He’s collaborated with Grammy winning artists as well as with fellow Alabama native Ruben Studdard. Now, though, Shepherd is looking to break out on his own.
“I’ve been working for years and I felt like there’s no better time than now to start developing my own show,” Shepherd said. “That’s what brought me to the concept for the television show, which is called ‘Cream,’ and led me to reach out to (actor) Phillip Michael Thomas.”
Before Shepherd moved on to the bright lights of California, he was an Alabama boy with football dreams but Shepherd said his fondest memories of Enterprise were fishing, hanging out with his friends and playing backyard football.
Shepherd ended up rushing for 1,268 yards and 18 touchdowns and was named team captain his senior year at EHS. He also learned The Southeast Sun Player of the Year. That led to a scholarship to play football at UAB.
“I was there for the last year Coach (Bill) Bacon retired and I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Bacon. He’s a great man,” Shepherd said. “From there it was Coach (Kenneth) Hand and I also have nothing but good things to say about Coach Hand, as well. Both of them were great coaches and great men to me.”
Out of all the games Shepherd played, one game his senior year against Vigor stood out to him.
“We came out and it was fourth-and-one or two and we lined up and Josh Kelly snapped the ball and hands it to me and I’m going down hill,” Shepherd remembered. “I met a defender right on the line of scrimmage and we collided; it was a stalemate. It was a pretty good hit but I spun off him and picked up that two or three yards to get the first down.
“I look up and (assistant) Coach (Buck) Hanson is going ballistic on the sideline. We had our moment there where we kind of knew where we needed to be and we all just meshed. That was a really good moment for me looking up at Coach Hanson pointing at me and I’m pointing at him and we were just all the way in it.”
Shepherd said he was thinking about pursuing a career in medicine while at UAB until he took an art class.
“There was a teacher, Cheryl Hall, that started me down this path,” Shepherd said. “We were talking about the craft of creating art or creating content. It grew into filmmaking for me. From there, I went headfirst into the arena of filmmaking and studied communications with a minor in filmmaking. I wanted to learn more about the craft, which is what led me to San Francisco.”
After years of working on numerous projects, Shepherd said his idea for “Cream” is based on ideals that can also come from the football field.
“’Cream’ is a cop drama and the base of it is about friendship and teamwork,” Shepherd said.
The series will be based around a former DEA Director that retires only for his wife to overdose.
“That sends him down a dark path that makes him feel like he wants to eradicate drugs in America,” Shepherd said. “In doing so he realizes the industry he once was able to work in, he’s maybe a little too old to tackle now.”
That leads to the character forming a team of agents to take on the drug work. Shepherd pegged longtime actor Philip Michael Thomas to star in the project. Thomas is most well known for his role as Detective Ricardo Tubbs on Miami Vice, but he has starred in a number of television shows and movies as well as lending his voice to the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.”
“Philip is a nice guy and he’s a principled man,” Shepherd said. “He’s only going to work on things that he feels has a purpose and something viable in terms of character.
“I actually appreciate that. He won’t do a project just to do it, he wants to make sure that the message behind the project is great and a project that people can learn from or take something from.”
Shepherd said that he is currently in talks with television networks to see where the show could end up but hopes it will be on air by next fall.
“I’m meeting with distributors now to figure out what kind of deal we can get done whether that’s a network deal or Netflix or Amazon or something like that,” Shepherd said. “We’re going through the process now and I’m hoping it will be on air by the fall of next year.”