During his junior year, Knighton completed a semester at The Oxford School of Drama in England. His experience at VCU was “wonderful and nurturing,” he said.
“I really loved all my professors, including Liz Hopper (professor emeritus who taught costume design) and her husband, retired professor Gary Hopper (who taught acting). Dr. Campbell was one of the best teachers I ever had,” Knighton said.
Campbell, who chaired the theatre department from 1970-1983, was a mentor to Knighton and also directed one of the actor’s last performances in Richmond. He died in August 1999, shortly before Knighton graduated.
“He was quite the inspiration,” Knighton said. “After he passed and I had moved to New York, his widow sent me the book ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. Dr. Campbell and I had spent a long night talking about this book. It’s one of the most prized possessions I have today. It meant a lot.”
Being at VCU, Knighton said, was the “perfect gateway to my professional career. It was a transitional moment for me in my life along with getting a fantastic education from some really amazing people.”Zachary Knighton, left, Stephen Hill (as TC) and Jay Hernandez (as Thomas Magnum) [View Image]Knighton, left, Stephen Hill (as TC) and Jay Hernandez (as Thomas Magnum) on the CBS series Magnum P.I. (Courtesy of CBS) Zachary Knighton, left, and Stephen Hill on the set of Magnum P.I. [View Image]Knighton, left, and Hill on set. (Photo courtesy of CBS)
One of Knighton’s favorite jobs during his career was his two-year stint as Dave Rose on “Happy Endings.” The cancellation of the sitcom in 2013 came as a shock. Knighton then spent a few years working on television pilots but became frustrated because he felt his career was always on hold waiting to see if the shows would be picked up.
He asked his agent to put feelers out for an action show that shot in an exotic locale and a week later the script for “Magnum P.I.” was on his desk.
“I got the offer, and it’s been fantastic ever since,” he said. “I’m sort of glued to this thing.”Zachary Knighton, Perdita Weeks (as Juliet Higgins), Stephen Hill (as TC) and Jay Hernandez (as Thomas Magnum) on the set of Magnum P.I. [View Image]Zachary Knighton, Perdita Weeks (as Juliet Higgins), Stephen Hill (as TC) and Jay Hernandez (as Thomas Magnum) on the set of Magnum P.I. (Courtesy of CBS)
The show, which is shot in Hawaii, where Knighton now lives with his family, is a modern take on a classic series that ran on CBS from 1980-88. Thomas Magnum, a decorated former Navy SEAL, upon returning home from Afghanistan becomes a private investigator.
Knighton plays Rick, a street-savvy former Marine who runs a nightclub in Oahu. In addition to his acting skills, Knighton also brings his surfing abilities to the role. He learned to surf while growing up in Virginia Beach and has been perfecting the sport ever since.
He said he differs from his on-screen character, who always seems to be in some sort of trouble.
“I’m a pretty good boy. I’m a family man,” said the father of two. “The most trouble I get in is if I don’t change a diaper.”
Knighton’s priorities have changed since he became a dad.
“Being a dad is pure love, it’s humility and learning about patience, all the things I never had to do before,” he said. “My family is my priority. When you are starting a career, you have to be devoted, and I still am, but maybe I’m softer around the edges.”