Spending an afternoon on a bar patio with Evan Pinsonnault, you don’t so much get the feeling you’re hanging out with a TV morning news anchor as you are being charmed by a consummate performer. As he knocks back a beer, he sweet talks the waitstaff and enthusiastically greets passing fans before casually running down the list of roles he’s juggling.
Journalist. Actor. Singer. Comedian. Professional emcee. Scratch golfer. You half expect to hear him to say “adopted father to a couple of Cambodian refugees,” but he stops short at “co-chair of local United Way chapter.”
“Can you work in a line about my stand-up and how I perform with (local ‘80s cover band) Starfarm?” he says with a devilish grin. “It will help with my mass appeal.”
Like he needs it. The human Swiss Army knife recently signed on for three more years (with an option to leave after two) as morning anchor for Lansing’s CBS affiliate, WLNS-TV. A big part of the reason was the splash he’s made in the community since he’s been here.
“I mean, why wade in the shallow end when you can jump in the deep end,” he says. “I’ve made a lot of friends and become very involved in the time I’ve been here. I can’t believe I’ve only been here three years — it seems so much longer.”
A native of the Berkshires in western Massachusstes, he graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He honed his television news chops in Georgia before landing in mid-Michigan in 2009. Since then, he’s wasted no time rising to the top of the pop culture landscape. He’s active, foregoing sleep — a morning newscaster is supposed to be early to bed — to make a name for himself in a variety of local arenas, including the bustling community theater scene where he’s cranked out an impressive eight shows on local stages.
“I love it here in Lansing, it’s a phenomenal town,” he says. “There’s that Midwest sensibility here you don’t get in bigger cities. When I see people on the street and they say they watch my show, I know they mean it. It’s a personal connection, and that means something.”
You wait to see if he’s going to crack a smile, but he doesn’t. What do you know … sincerity. In addition to providing traffic and weather updates every morning, you may have also seen his mug introducing bands at Common Ground, emceeing any of a number of local charity events, or presenting awards at the annual Pulsar Awards ceremony. (He’s also scored two Top of the Town Awards as "Best TV Personality" in the annual City Pulse popularity poll.) But don’t let that charm fool you — Pinsonnault got ambition.
“What I’d really love to do is host my own show, do something that could go national,” he says. “Most kids grew up going to the mall. My parents took me to shows and I loved it. I used to try to duplicate what I’d seen on stage. I guess I’ve known since I was little that I want to be in front of people.”
So, here we have a natural ham making a splash in the broadcasting world on his way to starting his own show. Could Lansing have the next Regis on its hands?
“Wouldn’t that be perfect!” he says. “I think the people in Lansing are good judges of character, so I know that if I launched something and they liked it, it would be something that everyone would like. If I start something here and branch off, the possibilities are endless.”
Considering he couldn’t initially make up his mind between a career in politics and one in theater, Pinsonnault seems to have found a niche for himself.
“First and foremost, I see myself as a storyteller,” he says, as the sun dips behind the building, shrouding the patio in a shadow. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already hit the jackpot.”
He finishes his beer and asks for the check. Later tonight, he’s on his way to Owosso, where he’s playing two roles (why not?) in the Owosso Players’ community theater production of “Into the Woods.” This marks the third time he’s made his way through the Sondheim piece. But of course, wouldn’t you know, it’s not just for the applause.
“This particular production is going to put them over the top for their goal to raise funds for rebuilding their theater, which burned down and really hurt their local economy,” he says. (the Hallmark Hall of Fame script writes itself.) “It was such an honor that they asked me to do this.”
Of course they did. He’s Evan fricking Pinsonnault.