While the rest of us are trying to figure out what to do with our lives, there are some who know from birth. Many young actors grew up with stage mothers pushing them to fame. But the most successful are those who chose the field for themselves at an early age.
Actor Fred Savage, who guided us through “The Wonder Years,” is now a full-fledged grown-up and costarring in “Friends from College.”
Savage says the idea of acting was all his. “I was 6 and there were auditions being held at the local community center where I grew up in Glencoe, a suburb of Chicago. So me and all my friends, we all went. It would be fun. Then the director called me a couple of times. I got to go downtown, I wanted to go. I didn’t get anything, but I liked going …
“All my friends were on traveling baseball or hockey teams and I didn’t have a thing. So this was kind of cool. Then they called me for a Pac-Man vitamin commercial. My mom said – we didn’t know anything about the business – ‘You’ve been to two of these already and not got anything maybe it’s a waste of time.’ I said, ‘Oh, let’s go, let’s go!' That was the first job I got. Every job and every audition that followed, it was that same enthusiasm and excitement.”
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Elisabeth Moss, who jetted to fame as the determined Peggy Olson on “Mad Men,” and is navigating a new world in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” says she wanted to be an actress from the get go.
“I never think of myself as a child actor. I don’t feel that different from when I was 6. I loved acting and that’s that. I wanted to do it and there was really no question about it. I did ballet from 5 to 15, so I went back and forth between those two. And at 15, I decided to just go with acting because it was more fulfilling for me.”
Jodie Foster was barely out of diapers when she started to perform. “I remember my very first time in front of the camera. I had a little tiara and a little tutu and little slippers. I had to walk on stage and say, ‘I am the good fairy.’ I was about 4 or 5. I walked on and said, ‘I am the good fairy,' and looked past the camera and saw my mom’s face. And she had tears in her eyes and she was looking at me in this kind of respectful way. As I look back on it now, I remember that as very seminal moment about watching your children and being so proud that they can walk away from you and now they don’t need you anymore. That was big moment for me.”
Aaron Paul, the frenetic meth cooker from “Breaking Bad,” and now starring in “The Path,” thinks acting was in his DNA. “I feel like I’ve been acting ever since I was born. I knew at a very young age I wanted to do this. I was doing little short plays since I was a little kid, and I just loved being in front of people and doing make-believe. That’s kind of what I sought out as a young kid; just pretending, playing, and I never wanted to stop.
“When I turned 12 years old and was introduced to films like ‘Stand by Me' and ‘Goonies,' I saw those as kids pretending, doing make-believe on such a grand scale, and I just thought to myself, ‘Well, if they can do it, why can’t I?' A young kid from Boise, Ida., I just wanted to chase after it.”
Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City,” “Divorce”) says she started performing as a child. “It’s enormously thrilling to act. It’s hard to describe why because it’s like a feeling. It’s hard to find words to articulate.
“I remember when I first experienced it because I wasn’t strong academically in school. And children hate not feeling good at what they have to do, it’s a terrible feeling. And I did ‘The Little Match Girl' when I was little for NBC. I remember when the cameras rolled and I was acting, I felt euphoric. I didn’t know anything about acting, and still don’t know very much. It’s hard to explain. It’s why rock singers love to sing … It’s great to be someone else, to behave in different ways, to say things you wouldn’t normally say, to be cruel or silly or sad. It’s so weird and so thrilling.”
Sean Murray who plays Agent McGee on “NCIS” started acting when he was 12. “I’m the opposite case of most kids in this business who have the so-called ‘stage parents.’ I begged my parents, we lived in Coronado, and I’d been begging for years – I knew I wanted to be an actor from a very early age.
“I’d put on shows for my parents when they’d get home in the afternoon. I’d be rehearsing something. I’d come up with costumes and music and put on these little shows, just like my daughter does now, which is so funny.
“She’s doing a lot of theater in school because she loves doing it. She’s not aware that there’s a business attached to it. So for me, that couldn’t be better. People say, ‘You don’t want your daughter to be an actress.’ I say, ‘I want my daughter to be happy. I care about her being happy more than anything.’ So she’s doing all this theater work and having such a wonderful time doing it. Some of her classmates have agents and were talking to her about it. She said, ‘Daddy, there’s some girls that say they’re actors at the school and they’re auditioning for commercials. Is that acting?' I say, ‘No, honey. That’s working.’”