St. Petersburg College faculty members make their classrooms come alive with their passion and excellent research capabilities, and on Sunday, April 2, SPC Assistant Professor of History Dr. Angie Zombek will show those qualities to the world when she appears in an episode of TLC’s celebrity genealogy show, “Who Do You Think You Are?”, an Emmy-nominated series in which viewers get a look at the family histories of popular celebrities. In the episode, Dr. Zombek will help actress Jessica Biel trace the surprising history of her Civil War ancestor.
Additionally, Dr. Zombek, who has written her first book, Penitentiaries, Punishment, and Military Prisons: Familiar Responses to an Extraordinary Crisis during the American Civil War, was referred to the show’s producers by a colleague from Georgia Southwestern State University, Glenn Robbins.
“Given my research on imprisonment in the Civil War Era, I was a good “fit” to help Jessica understand her ancestor’s actions,” Zombek said.
Zombek was first put to work sifting through a stack of old documents that pertained to Biel’s ancestor’s history and helped the producers make sense of his actions and the predicament in which he eventually found himself..
Once filming proceeded, Zombek helped guest star Jessica Biel read through documents from her ancestor that were written in 19th Century script, which was full of interesting spellings and punctuation.
“She stopped at one point and asked me how I don’t go blind reading documents like these all the time for my research,” Zombek said. “At one point, she read one document as it appeared to her, which created quite an entertaining alternate narrative! Overall, she did very well reading these difficult texts, given that it was her first attempt at reading 19th century script.”
After filming with Biel, Zombek rode with the local film crew as they captured “approach” shots driving up to the property on which Jessica’s ancestor lived. This is a 160 acre farmstead that is only accessible by dirt road.
“I have a whole new appreciation for how hard film crews work to get approach shots of various locations,” she said.
Zombek said the experience made for a long day, but was very rewarding.
“The entire day lasted from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m., with travel to and from St. Louis and Miller County, Missouri. The filming of the scene with me and Jessica took about four hours between dialogue and different shots of the documents that we went over. The approach shots took about three hours with the film crew. My experience with the producers, Jessica, and film crews was amazing. It was a long day, but it was very energizing.
The opportunity to be an historian on TV was a bucket list item for Zombek – and it could be a recurring one.
“The producers said that they would definitely keep me in mind if they have another celebrity with a Civil War story,” Zombek said.
The episode will air at 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 2 on the TLC channel.