Role Player Assistant prosecutor honed his skills in movies and TV

 By Paul Janczewski

Legal News
 
Brian Kolodziej took an interest in law at an early age. It began in childhood by watching the television show “L.A. Law” with his mother, Cindy, and continued into middle school while the Malice Green trial unfolded.
 
And the O.J. Simpson trial in California played out as dinner theater for the Kolodziej family, who would watch the day’s events and discuss whether the prosecution or the defense had prevailed that day.
 
Kolodziej watched these and other legal dramas while many of his friends were out playing. While he was impressed by the job that Prosecutor Kym Worthy did on the Green trial, but he was swayed by the defense in the Simpson affair.
 
“So clearly, I had a lot of growing up to do,” he said.
 
Fast forward to 2013. Kolodziej is a Special Assistant Attorney General, working in the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office. But in-between those formative years, from watching legal dramas, both theatrical and real-life, and now as a practicing prosecutor, Kolodziej made a bit of a name for himself in Hollywood, where he acted in television series, feature movies, and professional community theater.
 
He’s worked as a waiter and in a clothing store to pay for bills while waiting for the acting career to take off. He’s become a professional brew master in California, and still fashions the beverage for himself and friends. And he’s become a certified personal trainer, molding out-of-shape humans into physically fit specimens.
 
“The way I always saw it was a means to an end,” Kolodziej said. “Those were the sparks that tinged that fire from all those years I was going after performing arts.”
 
He also said he needed those experiences to grow, to mature, and to help pay for law school, which was always his singular dream.
 
Kolodziej, 35, was born in Rochester, and started acting and playing the saxophone while at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township. He put together a comedy sketch and won top honors at the school’s variety show in 1997 while a senior. 
 
“I’m also very proud of earning the title of class clown,” he said.
 
But his father, Joseph, died that same year. Kolodziej studied one semester at Michigan State University, but it was a tough time for the family, and he returned home almost every weekend to help. 
 
“I felt drawn to home because my brother and mom needed me,” he said. 
 
He transferred to Oakland University for a semester, but continued taking performing arts classes, and performed in New York at a competition, which led to being contacted by a manager who urged him to move to Los Angeles to pursue film and television opportunities.
 
His mother, who has since remarried, set the stage for developing a strong work ethic by raising two boys while working overtime and caring for her sick husband before he died. 
 
“What she did was superhuman,” he said.
 
After finishing his first year of college, Kolodziej “left the nest” and moved to L.A. But like many young actors, success did not come right away. For five years, he pounded the pavement and honing his skills in local plays, community theater, and in film school. 
 
“They’re all steps up the ladder,” he said. 
 
But where did he work to support himself? 
 
“A more accurate question would be, ‘Where didn’t I work,’” Kolodziej said. 
 
Steakhouses, restaurants, and clothing stores were among his work stops. 
 
And so it went, acting whenever and wherever he could while working multiple jobs, before he got a big break through an acquaintance.
 
Later, armed with a tape of his acting roles, Kolodziej landed an agent, who got him an audition at 20th Century Fox. That led to a supporting role in “The Girl Next Door.”
 
Over the next few years, Kolodziej landed spots on TV series such as “Grounded for Life” and “American Dreams” in a guest starring role, to movies such as “Flight of the Living Dead” and “Creep Van.” He continued performing in community theater, and is most proud of playing PFC Louden Downey in a community production of “A Few Good Men.”
 
“I have so much respect for those who serve our country, and always had a sense of guilt for not serving myself, and that was the closest I could ever get to it and it was just very interesting to step into those shoes and to live that secondary reality,” he said.
 
While some of his endeavors went straight to video, others, such as “American Dreams,” have gained a certain cult following. He still receives some royalties, but not enough to quit his current day job. But the turning point came after he landed a lead role in childhood idol Adam Sandler’s “Happy Medicine Productions” series, “Gay Robot” on Comedy Central.
 
Unfortunately, the pilot episode was not picked up by the network, and one can only see it on Sandler’s website or YouTube. 
 
“Law school would have been a heck of a lot easier with a few more leading roles,” he said. “But it‘s like golden handcuffs, there’s always something that snags you and keeps you longer. I always progressed and got bigger and better projects, and my career was trending upward by all indications.” 
 
He felt badly for disappointing managers and agents by heading home to pursue his undergraduate and law degrees, “But it‘s just such a tough way to live out there, and I‘m proud of how far I made it,” he said.
 
After nearly nine years on the west coast, Kolodziej came back to Michigan, got his undergraduate degree in communications from Oakland University in 2009, graduating cum laude, earning his J.D. from Wayne State University Law School in 2012.
 
Kolodziej knew from the start that he wanted to be a prosecutor. 
 
“I felt compelled to represent the people, and be the voice for victims and their families,” he said.
 
He enjoyed internships at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, which led to a position in the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office through a Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) program.
 
When that position ended, Kolodziej was soon selected for a position as a Special Assistant Attorney General in Genesee County, once again working under Prosecutor David Leyton. The program was a result of Gov. Rick Snyder’s desire to aid crime-ridden cities along the I-75 corridor with additional police and prosecutors, and formed with the input from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, and Leyton, a Democrat. Leyton has four special assistants working under his supervision, including Mike Thomas, the former Saginaw County prosecutor, former Flint defense attorney Barney Whitesman, and Kolodziej and Lia Clarkson, former PAAM interns who also worked for Leyton.
 
“Due to the unfortunate circumstances of this county and the economics, it is absolutely necessary,” he said. 
 
Genesee County needs twice the number of prosecutors it has to handle the large volume of crime, Kolodziej said. 
 
“And this program is a testament to the leadership of Leyton and Schuette and their willingness to set politics aside to help Michigan and Genesee County achieve the end result.”
 
Kolodziej said Leyton and his staff are “wonderfully supportive” to the “baby prosecutors” such as himself, and, despite the reduction of assistant prosecutors due to budget cuts and layoffs, “they do things the right way here.”
 
Tammy Phillips, the managing assistant who supervises Kolodziej and others, praised his work. She said he has handled several felony and misdemeanor trials already “and has done phenomenal at both.”
 
“He dives in with gusto,” Phillips said. “We’ll take advantage of those fantastic skills as long as the Governor will allow us to do so.”
 
Kolodziej said he’s hooked on being a prosecutor. 
 
“I knew this was my path all along and it took me a little longer than I anticipated in getting here,” he said. “This is where my passion is.”
 
 

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