Actor Jon Tenney on Being a Jersey Boy

Americana, Featured Article
on September 15, 2014
Jersey Boy

When many people think of Princeton, N.J., they think of the renowned Ivy League university that’s been a fixture there since before the American Revolution. But when actor Jon Tenney thinks of Princeton, he remembers his childhood.

“It’s very much a part of me,” says the Major Crimes and Scandal star. “I feel very lucky. I grew up in a great town.”

JON TENNEYTenney, 52, played Little League and held down a paper route in Princeton. He recalls riding his bike with his buddies out to Carnegie Lake and spending the day horsing around until his parents rang the “dinner gong” calling him in. “It was just a big playground. When I look back on it, it was idyllic,” he says.

Despite his home’s proximity, Tenney never attended Princeton University (he graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with a B.A. in drama and philosophy). But he participated as a youngster in Princeton’s Creative Theater Unlimited, Princeton Street Theater, and the university’s Theater Intime, where he was taken under the wing of the students when he was 15 years old and worked tech, painted sets and operated spotlights.

“The university brought in so much culture to a relatively small city; all this music, dance and theater, so I was exposed to a lot,” says Tenney, whose father was a research physicist for the university and whose mother, a psychiatrist in private practice, took off 15 years to raise her children. “McCarter Theater was a great regional theater. I was an usher and did community productions.”

Princeton also boasts several historic points of interest, such as the Princeton Battlefield, where American and British troops fought on Jan. 3, 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. Morven Museum and Garden is an historic 18th-century home that served as the governor’s mansion for nearly four decades. The Princeton Battle Monument, commemorating the Battle of Princeton, depicts Gen. George Washington leading his troops to victory.

Even today, Tenney maintains ties to his hometown. “I’m still friends with my childhood friends,” he says. “We’ve spread out over the whole country, but we try to get together every summer or every winter—at least once a year—have a bit of a reunion, and catch up.”