Burgess Jenkins: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

Burgess Jenkins was born in 1973 and raised in Winston-Salem, and has gone on to star in movies like Remember the Titans (2000) with Denzel Washington, The Reaping (2007) as Hillary Swank’s husband, and as John Wesley in Wesley (2009). He has also starred in television shows like One Tree Hill (2008-09), Nashville (2012), and a long stint on The Young and the Restless (2014-16). Click here for full filmography


 From the time he was twelve, Jenkins knew that he loved movies and storytelling. He went to Summit and then Reynolds High School in Winston, and then studied psychology at Lenoir-Rhyne. “At the time I had no idea how much it would influence my work as an actor,” said Jenkins. “Now I rely on my psychology major heavily to break down characters and find what motivates them.”

Jenkins always thought he had an interest in acting, but he didn’t really start studying it until his mid-twenties. Jenkins studied at the famed Playhouse West in Los Angeles for four years. “My very first acting job was for a regional Belk commercial,” said Jenkins. “I was sporting some pretty fancy Dockers and bowling with some fake friends. At the time I didn’t think it could get much better than that.”

Since 2000, Jenkins has starred in over thirty television shows and movies. Almost ten years ago, Burgess founded and opened the Actors Group on Burke Street, which is a serious training studio designed to prepare students for the rigors of the film industry. “I can’t believe it’s been that long. It has been a blast and we are so proud of all the hard work and talented students who’ve gone on to book hundreds of roles on some fantastic projects. James Freetly, who was a former student and is now an instructor, plays an integral part. He’s an outstanding teacher.” The Actors Group is currently on Reynolda Road.  Click here for Actors Group website

Jenkins is married to Ashlee Payne Jenkins, who he describes as “an immensely talented actress.” They have a little girl named Harper, who is nine years old.


Questions about Winston-Salem:

When you are away from Winston-Salem, what are some of the things you miss the most?
Where to begin! I’ve been fortunate to live in a lot of places across the country, whether it was for years in some cases like Los Angeles or for months in others as it is with filming, but no place compares to Winston. I love to pack up my dog and take a slow walk around Old Salem on a random afternoon or get a cup of coffee from the Krankies airstream with my wife and spend the morning at Reynolda Gardens or Graylyn. Also, We’ve become huge fans of all things downtown, notably Camino Bakery, Local 27101, and the Spring House. But I think what stands out to me most is the intangible charm that Winston-Salem has. People who live here appreciate the history and the community feel of it. Though a lot has changed since I was a kid, those things have remained the same and hopefully always will.


Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods have you lived in?
After college, I lived in an apartment in the Peace Haven area with a buddy from high school. That was cool, but living on a 4th floor walk-up taught me that an elevator is invaluable. When I saved up enough money, I bought my first house near the Wake Forest neighborhoods. Awesome little bungalow… I have fond memories of that place. But the Buena Vista area has always been my favorite. All the streets and houses are different and they have so much character. Feels like stepping back in time a bit.

What Winston-Salem schools did you go to? Who were some of your favorite teachers at each school?
I went to St. Paul’s preschool where I remember singing every morning, “everyday at St. Paul’s is better than the day before.” I guess it must’ve been true because we sent our daughter there. Afterword, I attended Summit school and then Reynolds High School. I have a lot of favorites so it’s hard to say, but second grade Mrs. May, fourth-grade Tom Shaver, sixth-grade Mr. Wood and 10th grade Mrs. Turner. I give a lot of credit to Mr. Wood, who somehow made me appreciate science, and to Mrs. Turner, who helped instill a love of literature.

What is one retail store you wish that came to Winston that we don’t currently have? What about a restaurant that we don’t have?
I’m not a huge shopper but I suppose instead of any one shop it would be nice if we had an open air shopping area; I became pretty fond of the Grove in Los Angeles (however, speaking on behalf of my wife I should say Nordstrom).
Winston has so many fantastic restaurants I don’t feel that we are  lacking in that department. I would put our best restaurants on par with just about anywhere.

What are your top three favorite Winston-Salem restaurants?
It’s not a fair question because I could probably name thirty, so here are a few:
“Ryan’s” because it is a Winston-Salem icon that never gets old.
“Mary’s of Course,” because I love eating great breakfast any time of day and you have to love Mary (the owner).
And even though I’ve mentioned “Local 27101” already, I’ll include them here because my wife and I have probably eaten there a dozen times in the last three weeks.


Are you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Thruway. Spent many a day there as a kid…though I’ve got some fond memories of my daughter riding the carousel at the mall.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Can I do Moravian sugar cake and a half dozen hot glazed? I’m not sure I’d be a healthy islander, but I guarantee I’d be happy.


What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Holden hands-down. It has a little bit of everything.

Where is your favorite place in the mountains of North Carolina?
Blowing Rock. Started riding my motorcycle there when I was a sophomore in college, and since those days in the 1990’s, not a year has gone by that I haven’t been. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.

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Famous Winston-Salemites-Austin Highsmith

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.

Austin Highsmith spent her first nineteen years in Winston-Salem, where she was one of the nicest people ever to attend R.J. Reynolds High School.  She left Winston to major in Political Science/Studio Arts at UNC-Chapel Hill. Highsmith currently lives in Los Angeles, CA where she is an actress and improv comedian. She has over 12,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.


She has starred in such movies as Dolphin Tale (1 and 2) and Gangster Squad alongside such famous actors as Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, and Ryan Gosling. Highsmith won the Crystal Reel Award for Supporting Actress in Dolphin Tale. She has also had television roles on such shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Criminal Minds, and Castle. She is currently working on the upcoming films: The Unwilling, Open Roads, and The Bone Box.


All About Winston-Salem:
What years did you live in Winston-Salem?

I lived in Winston from 1981 (when I was born) until I left for college in 1999.

If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian Sugar Cake, Bojangles Bo-Berry Biscuit, Krispy Kreme Hot and Now Doughnut?
Oh man, this is a really tough question! I have to go with the Moravian Sugar Cake. I’m actually really surprised that I just said that because I can CRUSH a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in mere seconds.

Which Winston-Salem neighborhoods did you live in?
I don’t even know the names of the neighborhoods I lived in! It’s around the intersection of Country Club and Peacehaven. And then we moved further down Peacehaven just past the 421 entrance/exit. Both (thankfully) are in the Reynolds High School district.

What different schools did you go to?
I went to Sherwood Forest Elementary and then Cook Middle School. I don’t think Cook exists anymore. And then I went to RJ Reynolds High School.

Who were your favorite teachers at each school?
Mr. Smith at Sherwood Forest was one of my absolute favorites along with Mrs. McCabe. I loved Mr. Clauset and Mr. Holbrook at Cook. And then there were so many that I loved at RJR like Mr. Michel for chemistry for sure, Mrs. Laning for art, Mrs. Storch for English, Mrs. Jenkins for Latin. This list could go on forever. I loved Reynolds!

Where all did you have jobs in Winston-Salem?
I had so many jobs! My first job was at Old Navy at Hanes Mall. Then I worked at the Juice Shop in Thruway for about four seconds. Then I worked at what used to be the Soda Shop across from Thruway. Then I worked at what used to be Lucky 32 (now 5 Points I think). During the summers, I was a lifeguard/swim coach/swim instructor at Jonestown Pool. I also babysat non-stop. Clearly I was a tiny work-a-holic.

What were your top three local Winston-Salem restaurants?
Village Tavern is the clear #1. I love that place so much! I go every time I’m in town. They have the best menu and the food is just amazing every time I go. #2 recently would have to be 4th Street Filling Station. I really love how much time has been put into building up the downtown area. It is super cute now, which I can say was not the case growing up. My family & I love going to 4th street during the summer and sitting on the patio. There are so many awesome restaurants in Winston, so for my #3, I’ll go with my favorite “cheat” meal which is Pulliam’s hot dogs. They also have BBQ sandwiches and you can have a bottle of Cheerwine and chat with the owner Mark. It’s always a super fun trip.

If you were to move back to the area, where do you think you would want to live?
If I moved back, I would probably like to live around Reynolda Gardens. I love how green and quaint the neighborhoods are around there. And also being able to hop over to the Village at Reynolda or just run around the Gardens….that would be awesome.

What is your favorite nickname of our minor league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
I’ll have to go with the Spirits, because that is what they were when I was a kid. My dad used to bribe me with the promise of a hot dog and a soda to go to the games, but we always had a blast while we were there. We went to many games as a family growing up, and of course the fireworks on the 4th were always a great time.

Were you more of a Hanes Mall or Thruway fan?
Growing up I was a Hanes Mall girl. I LIVED there on the weekends. But now whenever I’m in town, my mom & I always end up at Thruway and spend the whole day there.

What was your favorite place to go in Winston?
This is tough because I love Reynolda Gardens and all of the stuff to do around there. But my favorite place would have to be Jonestown Pool. I spent most of my childhood summers there from when I was four until I was twenty years old. My memories of my time there are some of my most fond and I just always remember being so happy there. I also made friends there that have lasted a lifetime.

Where was your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
As a kid, my parents would take us up to Pilot Mountain or Blowing Rock for the day. Both of those places were so much fun. I have two brothers and we could just run around the mountain and climb on stuff. I loved that fun little getaways were so close. It allowed my family to have a lot of fun for not a lot of money.

What was your favorite North Carolina Beach?

Oh, that is tough. Carolina beaches are my favorite. I live in California now and I hardly ever go to the beach because they aren’t Carolina beaches! My family always goes to Oak Island every summer (still!), so that is probably my favorite. But Wrightsville will always hold a special place in my heart. My buddies from high school & I spent tons of time on Wrightsville beach and had an absolute blast. Trolly Stop hot dogs and a pink lemonade on a hot summer day…..there’s nothing like it.

austin dolphin tales

Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
Boone. There is so much charm in Boone. Both of my brothers went to App and so I visited often. There is so much to do in Boone and great restaurants. Although how can I not also mention Asheville?! I went to the Biltmore Estate a lot as a kid on school trips. Asheville is just gorgeous and I love how they have so many little artist communities!

Did you ever go to Ziggy’s?
Oh yeah. It feels like I was at Ziggy’s every weekend in high school.

What was your favorite concert there?
I can’t pick one! One of my favorite experiences was having Dave Matthews pop up and play out of the blue. That was pretty awesome. But there were so many great concerts at Ziggy’s that I just can’t choose. I love that Ziggy’s provided a place for emerging artists to gain a following. Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill is like that too. It is so vital for up and coming musicians to be able to play venues like Ziggy’s.

Who is your favorite ACC team?
Well this question is going to drive my dad nuts! We grew up going to pretty much every Wake event that happened. My dad graduated from Wake Forest (both the University and the Business School), so we were always at Wake growing up. But then I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill… So I’ll probably have to stick with my alma mater and go with UNC. Sorry dad.

Are there any special memories you have of Winston-Salem?
I could write an entire book on all of my fond memories of Winston. Growing up at Calvary Baptist Church and all of the friends I made there. Playing on many sports teams, be it soccer or swimming. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Winston and I love that my parents are still there so I can visit several times a year. I can’t wait till I have kids of my own and can share all the Winston has to offer with them too!

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