With more than 20 years in the television and film industry and a passion for travel, Boylan created a hit TV series for Amazon Prime called The College Tour.
"Cut!” calls the director standing behind two camera operators.
Jacksonville University students and siblings Bobby and Maggie Radloff exhale and relax slightly while the film crew prepares for the next take of their 2-minute segment.
Before the cameras begin rolling again, however, host and executive producer Alex Boylan '99 walks over to the brother and sister duo for a coaching moment.
“You guys are doing an awesome job! This time, can we try something a bit different?” he says, offering them some helpful pointers to bring some movement and energy to the shot. They listen intently, and loosen up a little more. Shaking off the butterflies, they try again.
“And…action," says the director.
It’s atypical for a television host to be so involved in filming. Boylan, however, is anything but typical, and this is no ordinary episode.
Boylan has returned to his alma mater, Jacksonville University, to film the season 4 finale of “The College Tour,” now streaming on Amazon Prime and several other platforms. Boylan is creator, executive producer and host of the show, which brings university campuses right into students’ living rooms to make their college search more accessible and affordable. Each episode focuses on a single college or university and highlights real students. It gives high schoolers an inside look at everything from academics to campus life.
“This has been one of the most special weeks since I graduated — to be back here [at JU] and helping tell the story of my alma mater which I love so much,” Boylan said during a break in filming. “I loved every second I was on this campus. It made me who I am today.”
A NATURAL TALENT
It’s easy to imagine Boylan stealing the spotlight when he roamed the oak-lined paths of JU. He’s a bright light. Genuine, approachable, charming, and humble, Boylan makes immediate friends wherever he goes. His abundant joy for life and love for people “breaks through the glass” — that’s industry jargon for someone who is captivating to watch on screen.
Boylan, a Boston native, was bitten by the television bug soon after graduating from Jacksonville University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in international business. He and friend Chris Luca won the second season of the hit reality TV show “The Amazing Race” in 2002. Boylan decided he wanted to pursue a career in television and soon landed a position at PineRidge Film & Television based in Jacksonville. It was a sales job for PineRidge’s stock footage products, but Boylan held tight to his dreams of being on camera.
“You could see he had a camera presence,” said PineRidge founder and CEO Jerry Smith, who now teaches part-time at JU as an adjunct professor in the film program. “He lit up the camera. He had a natural enthusiasm and really amazing energy about him and he still does. I saw that in him.”
Smith agreed to mentor and coach Boylan while he worked at PineRidge. The first challenge, Smith recalled, was getting rid of Boylan’s heavy Bostonian accent. “He would say ‘I’m gonna pahk the cah’ or he’d say ‘cheez’ instead of ‘cheers.’ So I had to teach him to speak in a way that is broadcast sensitive and he did a really good job.”
Boylan exceeded expectations. He not only lost the accent but turned out to be “the best sales person we’ve ever had,” according to Smith. So when Smith’s pitch for a new PBS show called “At The Chef’s Table” was picked up by the network in 2004, he offered the hosting job to Boylan. “The rest was history,” Smith said.
Since then, Boylan’s bright star has climbed, and his work has expanded to include offscreen roles. He has hosted, produced and/or directed numerous television shows and series, including “What’s Cooking with Alex,” “Animal Attractions,” “Around the World for Free,” “The CBS Buzz Tour,” “Rach to the Rescue” for The Rachael Ray Show, and hours worth of destination content for Travel Channel and Lonely Planet. He’s also produced hundreds of episodes and segments for Steve Harvey over the years.
THE COLLEGE TOUR
Boylan’s career and his innate curiosity has taken him to more than 55 countries around the world. In 2020, he turned that spirit of discovery to college campuses, teaming up with veteran executive producer Lisa Hennessy (“The Biggest Loser,” “World’s Toughest Race,” “The Contender,” “Eco-Challenge”) and a first-rate production crew to film hundreds of students at more than 50 colleges or universities around the country.
“People like to say the next generation is not as good as the last generation; I couldn’t think that is further from the truth,” said Boylan “When you meet the students that are going to JU right now and the people that they are and the stuff they think about to make this world a better place, that is so much more advanced than when we were graduating. These students are incredible.”
Boylan said it’s exciting to see how much the JU campus has grown since his time here. “If there was a biggest wow factor, for someone who was here 20 years ago, it’s opening up that river,” said Boylan, referring to Dolphin Beach, a sandy student recreational spot on JU’s riverfront. “What an amazing thing to have here.”
While filming on campus, Boylan made sure to catch up with PineRidge founder Jerry Smith, the mentor who gave him his first TV job. And he made sure to tell everyone how grateful he was to Jerry for giving him a shot. “He is extremely loyal and never forgets the people who helped him early on,” Smith later said. “People tend to sometimes get ‘the big head’ when they get successful… Alex has never gotten the big head. He always has maintained that humble spirit. He’s out there to elevate you.”
Boylan carries an indomitable, contagious optimism. It’s a magnetic force that naturally attracts others and gives them a sense that he’s rooting for them. Because he is. It’s not a guise for the cameras. In many ways, he embodies the spirit of the Dolphin Family.
“I am still good friends with all the people I graduated with. We help each other out in business,” he said. “When you graduate from JU you really are part of a family. And if you’re a JU student, call me. You want something? Call me. You will automatically get a meeting with someone who went to JU. There’s people in front of me who have helped me break in through some doors. My message to the next generation is: realize the family that came before you and do not be scared to pick up that phone.”