Birthplace: Waukegan , IL
You Know Him As: Garrett Wells on ABC’s Boston Legal.
Did you know?: Mentell likes to travel and has visited 25 (mostly European) countries.
On December, 16, 1982, Justin Mentell was born in Austin, Texas. He made his stage debut when he was only three years old as an orphan in “Miss Liberty.” He would appear in several local theater productions, including “Peter Pan,” where he was a Lost Boy.
His family moved to Waukegan, Ill., while Mentell was still a child. He had the opportunity to continue performing on stage with the Northbrook Children’s Theater. Another hobby he took up was speed skating.
Mentell was dedicated enough and talented enough to rise in his competitions. He would go on to be a member of the U.S. Speedskating’s Junior National long track team and even placed third at the Junior Olympics. However, he retired from the sport and graduated from Waukegan High School in 2001. Mentell pursued higher education at Northern Illinois University where he majored in acting. While in school, he appeared in “Balm in Gilead,” “The Play’s the Thing” and “Never the Sinner.” Seizing a unique opportunity, he studied at the Moscow Art Theatre for a summer exchange program, which was sponsored by NIU’s School of Theater and Dance.
Not only did Mentell appear on stage, but he appeared in several independent films in his college years. For “At the Still Point,” he received the Golden Reel Award for Best Actor from the Student Film and Video Association at its 2005 Film Festival. He even appeared in the feature film “Roll Bounce” (2005) before graduating NIU with a B.F.A in Acting in May of 2005.
“I learned a lot from all of them – movement, voice, directing and acting. Each also imparted something personal,” he said Northern Illinois University.
“I had always heard that NIU’s acting program was one of the best in the nation, and once I got there I understood why….“ continued Mentell in Northern Now. “They don’t just prepare you to act- they also teach you about the business of acting, how to deal with agents, what to look for in a contract, etcetera.”
The training on agents paid off when the agent he chose called him the July after he graduated to audition for the ABC TV series “Boston Legal.” Unable to fly to Los Angeles to audition, Mentell sent a tape instead. From this tape, he was asked to go down to L.A. for some workshops.
“My agent called me Wednesday [July 13] and asked how I liked Los Angeles,” Mentell told the Northern Star. “I said that I liked it fine and then my agent asked if I’d like to live [in Los Angeles] because I got the part [as Garrett Wells, a brash, young attorney].”
He filmed 16 episodes (2005-‘06) with big-shot actors like William Shatner and Candice Bergen during his time there.
After his TV stint, Mentell moved on to the movie “5-25-77” (2007).
“It’s a coming-of-age story where this guy is trying to find his place in the world and has these distractions along the way. It’s really funny,” he explains to Starry Constellation Magazine.
Next was a small but subtly complex independent film called “Palo Alto” (2007). The film (a Tribeca Film Festival official selection) follows a group of friends coming home from their first year at college.
“I loved the script,” Mentell says in The Cinema Source. “There are a lot of projects you’ll see where you’ll want to work on it, you get all excited, but the chances of booking it are slim to none. So I didn’t want to get too excited but after the call back it felt pretty good and then the offer was there the next week and I was like, yes!”
His latest film is “Death Walks the Streets (2007). “I hate to mention the word horror because it’s not a horror film by any means,” he explains. “It’s like an action/thriller/suspense movie but with horror aspects—and there’s the mob.” This film takes place in Chicago and rural Illinois, and is part 1 of a planned trilogy of action/horror films.
“I feel very blessed to be where I am this early in life on a show like this,” said Mentell to Starry Constellation Magazine. “I am very grateful for everything and the people I work with.” He currently lives in Los Angeles with his German Shepherd.
He enjoys playing golf, watching movies, playing video games and jamming out on his drums. This love of music goes back to his stint as drummer in a punk band, Recipe for Disaster, during his college years.
Biography by Katie Doucet