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Behind The Scenes Or In Front Of The Camera, Charlotte's Parati Makes A Big Presence

You may not know the name Tim Parati, but chances are you’ve seen work by this native Charlottean around the city and on your TV screen. Whether he’s designing a set for a local play, or has a recurring role on the post-apocalyptic show The Walking Dead, Parati has a hard time saying no to creative undertakings.

Many projects keep him busy these days but Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is his home base. Which is where WFAE’s Sarah Delia caught up with Parati to discuss the two very different worlds he lives in.

Ask Tim Parati what he does as the scenic artist at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and this is the answer he’ll give you.

"I tell them I create all the magic," Parati said. "Pretty much everything you see on stage I or my assistants painted by hand and created from nothing."

In other words, without Parati’s magic, the set would be just a bunch of wood. He’s been in this position at Children’s Theatre for over a decade—painting and creating the art that makes the shows come alive.

The world he’s currently creating is a skyline for a bustling city in the play Go, Dog Go. He uses the stage of the McColl Family Theatre inside ImaginOn as a work space for the large backdrop.

"To me it’s like installation art, I know scene painting isn't really considered an art form in fine art but to me we create this world and collaborate with the actors, lighting designers…it’s an encompassing piece of art."

This is the first world Parati lives in: one full of wonder and whimsy. From creating scenic art for Children’s Theatre to designing the set for his wife Kim’s rendition of A Raisin in the Sun. It’s challenging work he enjoys and it’s just sort of how he sees the world.

"I’m always studying whether I know it or not," Parati said.  "I could be stopped at a stoplight looking at a sunset and the way the light hits the building and I start thinking about how I would paint that, what I would do first and what layers I would add on top of that…it's just always running through my head."

The other world he lives in is a little darker.

If you’re fan of the Walking Dead and haven’t watched episode 11 of season 7, consider this your spoiler alert.

Until recently Parati had a recurring role on the post-apocalyptic show the Walking Dead as Dr. Carson, the doctor to a group called the “saviors," just one of many clusters of people trying to stay alive as zombies roam the earth.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson meets an untimely death when he takes the fall for something he didn’t do, which makes Negan, arguably the biggest villain of Walking Dead history, pretty mad. So mad he throws Dr. Carson into a furnace.

"I assumed I’d get eaten or chewed on  or become a zombie," Parati said. "But I was told when I was there that this was the most interesting, epic death they've ever had and it’s caused a lot of attention."

He’s also had roles in Army Wives, A Time to Kill, and Cabin Fever just to name a few.

Parati has found this sort of sweet spot in his career. Children’s Theatre is very flexible with his schedule—if he has an audition for a TV show they make it work. So it’s not hard to see why this native Charlottean has stayed in the city. Although he did flirt with living in New York years ago. Now it’s more of a quick trip he makes with his wife for inspiration.

"We go to New York and get charged up and then come back and put it into our work here," Parati said. "Because the people of Charlotte need theater too."

Life hasn’t changed dramatically for Parati since his time on the Walking Dead, although he has seen an increase in Twitter followers and has received some new fan mail.

"Fans send a card with my picture and the character’s name and the logo and they want me to sign that and I’m ok. I used to write fan letters when I was a kid. But there are people now that I’d like to write a fan letter to and get their autograph!"

Parati is a collector in his own right, he’s been collecting Planet of The Apes memorabilia on and off since 1974. So, he gets it.

Along with the uptick in Twitter followers, he’s noticed a difference in roles he’s been reading for lately.

"Since I cut my hair I’m reading for doctors and lawyers which I never used to do," he said. "You age into it. I read for a senator the other day. I still read for drug dealers and rednecks but that's alright."

Whatever comes next for Parati, he’s glad to have had the experience on the zombie thriller. He had auditioned about nine different times for various roles before landing this one, though the role of Dr. Carson may have worked out for the best. It had lines, a vital role in the show’s plot, and an epic death scene that no one will soon forget.

Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.