By Reggie Ellis

Ron Hughart is normally putting bad men behind bars, but this Friday, he will transform into pure evil.

Hughart, an Exeter resident, will make his cinematic debut as one of the devil's three henchmen in &#8220The Visitation,” set to be released at select theatres throughout the country on Jan. 20, including Galaxy Theatres at the Tulare Outlet Mall.

Based on the best-selling novel by renowned Christian author Frank Peretti, &#8220The Visitation” tells the story of a mysterious stranger, played by Edward Furlong (American History X, Terminator 2) and his three associates (one being Hughart), who arrive in the small town of Antioch and perform miracles on those who would follow. While the town is blinded by the seduction of his supernatural powers and ready to name him the Messiah, it's up to an ex-minister, played by Martin Donovan (Insomnia, Traffic-the mini-series) to confront his own inner demons and unlock the bizarre and shocking secrets of evil unleashed stealing the town's soul. He is aided in his quest by two other town folk played by country music singer turned actor Randy Travis and Kelly Lynch (The Jacket, Charlie's Angels).

&#8220I don't have any speaking lines but in one scene I give Ed Furlong's character ‘the nod,'” Hughart said. &#8220This is very exciting for me.”

In one scene, the doors of a church are blown off to reveal the three demon henchmen through the settling smoke. Hughart said that scene sticks out because the special effects people had quit early and the director needed to finish the scene to stay in line with a rigid 24-day shooting deadline.

&#8220He was pounding on one of the pews wondering what to do when I ran to my car and got some road flares,” Hughart said. The road flares, along with the backlighting, created the same mood and effect director Robby Henson was looking for. &#8220He sent me a thank you card for saving the day.”

Hughart, who normally has a short, close trimmed beard, had to grow out his beard for two months for the part. &#8220As a law enforcement officer I made sure to get the OK from the chief,” said the lieutenant with the Woodlake Police Department.

Hughart, 56, has worked in law enforcement for almost 30 years. He began as a reserve officer with the Farmersville Police Department in 1975. He switched career to become a teacher a few years later but continued in law enforcement as a reserve officer investigating missing persons for the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. After 20 years of teaching, Hughart returned to law enforcement full time when he was hired as lieutenant with the Woodlake Police Department in 2001. &#8220I met a retired teacher in Los Angeles who says he makes twice as much working part time as an actor then he ever did as a teacher,” Hughart said. &#8220I may not retire. I will just retire from police work and start an acting career.”

Tall Man in the industry

Listed in The Visitation's credits as, &#8220Tall Man 2,” Hughart has already used his experience and contacts to build a short but impressive acting resume. Hughart earned a credit in Signal Hill's &#8220The Moment After II: Sleepers Awake,” which was filmed in and around Exeter in June. The sequel to the production company's 1999 post-apocalyptic film, The Moment After,” follows two FBI agents as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of Christians. Hughart plays a checkpoint guard that is killed while transporting prisoners. The film was shot in 19 days and will be released direct to DVD. It is tentatively set to be released this spring.

&#8220I had to lay on the ground with fake blood dripping from my head for four hours,” Hughart said. &#8220I have learned a lot about the grind of acting. A lot of the time you work 12-14 hour days, and three to four of those hours are for one scene. But man, when you get that scene they way you want it, it's time to break out the champagne.”

The crew shot most of the film in Lancaster but they spent two days in Tulare County filming at Hobbs Containers in Exeter, the General Store in Woodlake and Kaweah Delta District Hospital in Visalia.

The film will be Signal Hill's seventh production. All seven feature-length movies have been partially filmed in Tulare County. Producer Bobby Downes, a Visalia native, prefers filming in Tulare County because of its wide range of terrain from the mountain backgrounds, dry valley, and a variety of architecture ranging in historical eras. For The Moment After sequel, the crew needed an industrial warehouse area. Second Street in Exeter was just what the film required.

The 40-person crew used Hobbs Containers as a base and solicited help from Exeter EMTs. Hughart also played a store clerk in another Signal Hill movie, &#8220To The Wall,” about two men who cross paths and share experiences on their way to find the names of their fathers on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Hughart went on to play a bit part in a commercial for a Los Angeles television station's airing of &#8220Sex and the City” reruns.

But his first speaking part came in a commercial for Geico auto insurance. If picked up by the company, it will air nationally. Hughart plays a father who arrives at a restaurant to hear &#8220some good news” from his son-in-law.

&#8220He announces that he and my daughter are getting a divorce,” Hughart said. But then the tagline, &#8220but I do have some good news. I saved a lot of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.”

With his first lines behind him, Hughart didn't have to wait long for more. He was chosen to play a mysterious homeless man in a movie called &#8220Sureality.” But success in the arts is nothing new for Hughart who recently published his third book, &#8220The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl With A Pocketful of Peanuts.” The book is a continuation of his experiences growing up in a migrant household in Tulare County that he began telling in his first book, &#8220The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl.” The coming-of-age story written in 2002 is now required reading at the College of the Sequoias.

But success hasn't gone to his head. Ron makes his home in Exeter and enjoys spending much of his time fishing at Lake Kaweah. He and his wife, Ann, have been married for 33 years and have three children - Chad, 28, Jodi, 23, and Wendy, 21.

&#8220I have met so many great people in the movie business and I just want to have fun with this for as long as I can,” he said.

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