Springdale actor lands recurring role on CBS' 'Bull'
For John Siciliano, it's about getting back up after you fall — even if that means hopping on one limb to cross the finish line.
The Springdale High School graduate who had his right leg amputated above the knee after a 1993 car accident in Squirrel Hill, didn't let his prosthetic getting dislodged during a race stop him from finishing that run and chasing after other things in life — both on the track and in front of the camera.
His disability helped him earn a recurring role on the popular CBS drama series “Bull,” which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays. Michael Weatherly (formerly of “NCIS” stars as Dr. Jason Bull — a character inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil) as a prolific trial consultant. Bull combines psychology, human intuition, and high tech data to learn what makes jurors, attorneys, witnesses and the accused tick.
Siciliano, 46, plays Harrison, an amputee, who was introduced to viewers Oct. 3. He is an ex-FBI agent and former partner of Danny James, played by Jaime Lee Kirchner. Harrison was injured by gunfire, and James, who works as Bull's investigator, longs to take care of him, but he doesn't really want that.
Fans of the show will have to tune in to see where the relationship goes.
“I love being in ‘Bull,' ” Siciliano says. “It's a great role. I love that CBS cast an amputee actor to play the character. Kudos to them for doing it.”
His path to acting started after he wrote a play about his life called “Siciliano.” It debuted off-Broadway in New York City and recounted the challenges of losing his leg as well as the guidance he received from his mentor Todd Schaffhauser, an above-the-knee amputee Paralympian. Siciliano saw Schaffhauser's success on the track and wanted to emulate him.
Siciliano fell at his first trials for the Paralympics and had one last chance to make the team in 1996. During the race, he felt his leg coming loose again, but was able to finish first to compete at the games in Atlanta for Team USA and break the 200 meter record.
After the off-Broadway play's run was completed, Siciliano returned to finish his degree at the University of Southern California. He got to attend that college because of a Swim With Mike scholarship, which provides financial resources for advanced education to physically challenged athletes.
It was in California where he was cast in his first television show, NBC's “ER.” His character, Toby, was a one-legged homeless guy.
“That show catapulted me to other jobs,” Siciliano says.
His resume includes guest spots on “The Young and the Restless,” “NCIS,” “Grey's Anatomy,” “Scrubs” and “Blue Bloods” and the role of Pokey the Pirate in “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.” That film, he says, captured the interest of his nieces and nephews, who call their uncle “the coolest guy around.”
Siciliano is committed to giving back. He is on the diversity committee for the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union for professionals in the entertainment industry.
“It's about bringing awareness to actors with disabilities and what better show to do that than ‘Bull,' which is a No. 1 show,” says Siciliano, who credits Hanger Clinic: Prosthetics and Orthotics on Pittsburgh's South Side with helping him acquire the best prosthetics. “It's about giving back, because I have been very fortunate and blessed. Another amputee helped me, and I want to keep paying it forward and keep the ball rolling.”
Siciliano had been living in Los Angeles the past 20 years, but is currently in Pittsburgh where he is a personal trainer at Club One Fitness in the East End of both disabled and able-bodied individuals. He is residing on Mt. Washington with his girlfriend, Kiki Lucas, who is a jazz instructor at Point Park University, his alma mater, where he studied journalism and communications and was recognized as a distinguished alumni.
Siciliano will be teaching a class at Point Park, beginning Oct. 17, called acting for the camera. He also is teaming again with Steeltown Entertainment Project, a company that builds bridges between Pittsburgh and the entertainment industry, for its Spotlight Series at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. He was a moderator for a panel discussion on disabilities and the entertainment industry for Steeltown and this time will be speaking about his story.
The accident, he says, is pretty much a blur, but he does recall crawling from his vehicle because he heard a loud ticking noise and thought the car might explode and catch on fire. His next memory of being raced to the operating room is like a scene out of a television show — much like “ER,” where he would eventually have a role. After some time in the hospital, he woke up hooked to wires, on a respirator and in a neck brace and soon learned his leg had to be amputated above the knee.
“I was devastated,” Siciliano says. “But I told my family and my doctors that I wasn't going to give up. There were so many people who supported me, that after what I experienced I wanted to pay it forward. Not everyone can identify with losing a leg, but everyone can identify with loss, and through that journey of loss, there is a universal theme.”