LOS ANGELES – In less than a year after graduating from college, Sam Straley landed a regular role on an ABC television series.
Unreal? “It’s pretty crazy,” Straley says. “When I first got it, I was really shocked. I had a lot of weird feelings.” Most of all, though, he felt grateful.
A graduate of DePaul University, Straley figured he’d build his credits in Chicago, then take a shot at either theater in New York or film in California.
When producers for the new sitcom “The Kids are Alright” came calling, he auditioned and was cast as Lawrence, the family’s oldest son, who decides he doesn’t want to become a priest. Dropping out of the seminary, he upsets the Cleary family order and riles his father when he says he just wants to save the world.
Although “The Kids” is set in the 1970s, it has plenty for families to relate to. Straley, who’s the middle child of three, says he has seen the dynamic in his mother’s Irish-Catholic family.
On set, he frequently seeks advice from the other actors who have had more experience.
“It gets pretty crazy,” he says of the eight-boys-in-one-house dynamic. “But they’re really seasoned. This is my first thing.”
Growing up in Ohio, Straley says he got the acting bug when he was a child. “My grandpa was a film critic and he took me to movies all the time. I didn’t want his job. I just knew I was going to work in film and TV.”
Community theater and school plays followed, then he enrolled at DePaul. To make sure casting directors see their graduates, the university hosts acting showcases in New York and Los Angeles. Straley made the New York event (“It was the first time I’d ever been to New York”), but had to beg off on the Los Angeles one because he had booked an acting job.
“I worked on a few films right after school and I learned as I went along,” he says. “Before I came out here, I prepped myself so I’d feel good about what I was doing when I watched it. I had done things before where I was so new to it. And when I watched them, I thought, ‘What are you doing here?’”
The ABC series, he says, “was not going to be one of those things. I know I’m going to work harder than I’ve ever worked before.”
Already aware of the first season’s storylines, Straley says his character will get plenty to do. Because Lawrence is searching for a career, he’ll spend time with his father “teaching me how to be my own man.”
Lawrence has long hair – a 1970s touchstone. Straley does not, so he wears a wig.
“It’s all so bizarre,” the twenty-something actor says of his new opportunity. “I’m incredibly grateful to all my family and my teachers for being so supportive. They helped me in so many ways. They gave me the mindset, ‘I can do this.’”