As a preemptive strike against the marital discord she feared might follow retirement, Ceoria Coates took up acting. She knew that having something do in her spare time would lower the chances of her and her husband getting stir-crazy and driving each other nuts at home all day.
Coates didn’t retire from her job in real estate for another 10 years or so, but her acting has served her well in the past two decades. She found a niche in commercial work, got a few gigs in television shows and a documentary, and managed to join her husband in retirement and still maintain a harmonious household.
And on March 21, her experience landed her a spot on The Chicago Code, a new crime drama set and filmed in Chicago. And despite the fact that her clip was limited to a three-word line of dialogue, Coates said she was made to feel like a true celebrity.
“They do treat you like you’re really important, I don’t care how little a role you had,” said the
affable 85-year-old, who lives in Oak Park, in a recent interview with Austin Weekly News. They gave her a little trailer to use as a dressing room, fixed her hair and makeup, and sent her a heartfelt note of thanks after the fact. “We would like to thank you for your participation on The Chicago Code. We hope you enjoyed your time spent with us as much as we did your contribution,” read the letter, which was signed by the show’s creator and executive producer, Shawn Ryan.
Coates made her way to Oak Park in 2006 after living for years in Cambridge, just outside of Boston, in Massachusetts. There she worked on a television show that aired in the late 1980s called Spenser For Hire and appeared in various commercials for retailers like TJ Maxx and CVS. Coincidentally, she also played Percy Julian’s mother in a PBS documentary about the pioneer chemist who once lived in Oak Park.
When she moved to the Midwest, Coates took some time off to take care of her ailing husband, but eventually got an agent and landed more roles in commercials for United Way, Kraft Foods, and Moneygram. But the real thrill came when she went to an audition for The Chicago Code last year. “I had no idea that I would get picked on that,” she said when she found out she’d gotten the part.
They shot the scene last September. In it, Coates played a disgruntled Nigerian woman who answers the door to the police. She was told to take her time getting to the door, check out her visitors through the peep hole, and then open up in time for the cops to come barging through the door.
Coates didn’t get to rub elbows with the big stars of the show, like actress Jennifer Beals, of Flashdance fame, but only because she knows better, after so many years on sets, than to pester the main actors. “That’s tacky,” she declared. “That’s a good way not to get called anymore.”
Coates said she’s proud of the role, and has been sharing the news with all her friends and family. “Of course I’ve called everybody,” she said, laughing.