When I took my very first acting class at age 32, having never done so much as a school play, I asked a fellow student with more experience how people in the Washington region found their first roles.
“There’s this guy named Dragonuk,” he replied. “D-R-A-G-O-N-U-K.”
Though he never trod the boards at the Harman Center or starred in a blockbuster film — he was more likely to appear as “Drive-By Drug Buyer” on “The Wire” — few in the regional performing scene were unfamiliar with Brian Dragonuk, who died Tuesday at age 66. His website DragonukConnects has been offering listings for all sorts of performance jobs for 20 years, and thousands of first-timers like me found our first roles there.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Brian Dragonuk was not a part of the local scene, though he did not get into acting until age 47, with an appearance as an extra in the football comedy “The Replacements,” filmed in part in Dragonuk’s hometown of Baltimore. He made three other appearances as an extra that same year.
Over the next two decades, he appeared in over 500 films and television shows throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Dragonuk said in a 2011 interview, “If you want to make a living as an actor, you must make yourself valuable to as many employers as you can.”
He started DragonukConnects at the same time as he launched his acting career. Last year, he was honored by the Television, Internet & Video Association of D.C. for helping so many in the industry.
WTOP sports reporter J. Brooks wrote in a remembrance, “From commercials to sitcoms and popular Netflix shows to major motion pictures, Dragonuk helped those of us who were always looking for that next gig. … Dragonuk was responsible for helping people not only achieve their dreams but follow their passions no matter the size of the stage.”
Actor Jacqui Porth told me, “Brian Dragonuk was an inspiration in so many ways. He was kind, reaching out to offer contract analysis totally of his own accord, and he was wise, giving great advice after successfully staring his acting career later in life. He mentored people in all areas of the greater acting community.”
Another local actor said, “We never met, but corresponded several times. I was always impressed by this guy who didn’t know me but was so willing to help anyone and everyone in the acting community generously, and for so many years.”
Dragonuk was at a rehabilitation center recovering from recent foot surgery. According to his longtime business partner Jay Chapin, he was working on his laptop adding job postings on DragonukConnects until 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday. He died in his sleep that night. Said Porth, “He was sending out casting announcements up to his final hours, doing what he loved and excelled at: lifting up his colleagues.”
Friends may call at the Burrier-Queen Funeral Home and Crematory, 1212 West Old Liberty Road, in Sykesville on Sunday from 2:00-4:00 and 7:00-9:00. The funeral will be held there on Monday at 9:00 a.m. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Diabetes Association.