Tate Birchmore, 15, stands on the stands of Manzanita Hall's "Hollywood Foreign Press Association Wing."
Birchmore prepares to begin his undergraduate studies at 13 years old. Photo credit: Courtesy of TANDM PR

While most teenagers are navigating their way through high school, 15-year-old actor Tate Birchmore is preparing to walk the CSUN commencement stage. 

His passion for education stems from his drive to grow as an actor.

“There’s a lot of professionals in college,” he said. “I really wanted to get information that would help me throughout my [profession].” 

At 13, he graduated from Los Angeles Valley College with three associates degrees: in visual effects, in directing, and an Associate of Arts to transfer.

Now, two years later, he’s set to become a CSUN alumnus — with a bachelor’s degree in cinema and television arts — one month before the premiere of his biggest project yet, “Presumed Innocent” on Apple TV, an adaptation of the 1990 thriller, alongside Jake Gyllenhall and Ruth Negga. He’ll be starring as Michael Caldwell in all eight episodes of the limited series. 

Birchmore is scheduled to receive his diploma and participate in today’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication commencement ceremony (May 20).

From Third Grader to College Student

Birchmore was homeschooled for the majority of his childhood. He excelled in his studies, which inspired his mother to let him try out a few college classes. An accredited homeschool program, iLead, allowed the elementary school student to “enroll concurrently” in college courses while also studying as homeschooled student. After trying out a few college-level classes at age 9, it was clearly a great academic fit — but he had some convincing to do.

Each semester, due to his age, Birchmore had to meet with the college board to prove his eligibility to enroll in specific courses. Demonstrating capability in his initial classes, he gradually gained approval to pursue all the Valley College courses necessary to obtain his three associates degrees.

Despite always being the youngest in the room, Birchmore adapted to undergraduate studies with the help of CSUN’s CTVA professor Dan Watanabe. 

Birchmore took Watanabe’s screenwriting and producing classes at Valley College and learned that the professor also taught at CSUN — one of Birchmore’s primary reasons for transferring.

“[Watanabe] treated me the same [as other college students]. He’s always really sweet and understanding,” Birchmore said.

Passion and Persistence

His passion for storytelling began with street performing at Seaport Village in San Diego, inspired by the hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez. At the tender age of 5, Birchmore auditioned for a local dance team but did not make the cut. 

When his mother asked what he loved about dancing, he expressed that it was the thrill of performing for an audience — the infectious, electric feeling of entertaining a crowd. He soon learned he could experience the same through acting.

Soon, the family was making weekly drives from their home in San Diego to auditions in Los Angeles. His first acting gig, he said, was in a student film at Biola University. He immediately fell in love with “set life,” Birchmore said.

Continuing his higher education was important for the rising star to further his knowledge in the entertainment industry, he noted. He’s found a passion for being in front of the camera, as well as behind it — writing, directing and producing.

“I really want to create my own opportunities, it’s something I’m very passionate about,” he said of directing. “I like the hands-on experience.”

Birchmore’s work on “Presumed Innocent” has been incredibly rewarding, he said, having the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals such as Gyllenhall, writer David E. Kelley and executive producer J.J. Abrams.

Tate Birchmore sits against a wall with his arms on his legs in a screen grab from the upcoming Apple TV series "Presumed Innocent."
Tate Birchmore shines in his role as Michael Caldwell in the upcoming Apple TV series, “Presumed Innocent.” Photo credit: Courtesy of Apple

The Apple TV limited series is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9, three weeks after his graduation, and the first two episodes will be released on Apple TV on June 12, just days before his 16th birthday. 

Birchmore’s past acting credits include a young Jerry West on “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” the younger version of Glenn Howerton’s character, Jack, in the series “A.P. Bio” and Percy on “Single Parents.”

With a drive to perform and create, as well as a talent beyond his years, Birchmore’s journey from aspiring actor to university graduate is a testament to his dedication and determination in a highly competitive industry.

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