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Actor lands space-alien role; Jason Behr’s young career seems about to take
From: The Washington Times
Jason Behr was still a student at a suburban Minneapolis high school when he had a chance five-minute meeting with a Los Angeles-based talent manager who said, quite predictably, “When you get to L.A., give me a call.”
Naive in the ways of Hollywood at 19, Mr. Behr didn’t know that the phrase “Give me a call” ranks right up there with “Let’s do lunch sometime” and “My people will call your people.” The would-be actor didn’t know any better when he called the manager the morning after his plane landed in February 1993.
The talent guru immediately called him in for a meeting, signed him to a personal management contract and sent him out to audition for TV series pilots the same afternoon. Mr. Behr thought this was the norm in Hollywood and only fretted about getting to his next audition.
“I had no idea where I was,” he recalls, laughing. “If told I had a meeting at Warner Bros., my typical response was, `Where’s Warner Bros.?’
” `It’s over the hill.’
” `Which hill?’ ”
A fast study, Mr. Behr stumbled around to every major studio in town until a kindly casting director signed him up for an obscure pilot that didn’t go anywhere. But he kept pushing, eventually landing a series of guest shots on “Push,” “JAG,” “Profiler,” “7th Heaven, ” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and six episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” last season.
Mr. Behr, now 25, was in Wilmington, N.C., for his “Dawson’s Creek” gig as the fun-loving Chris Wolf when an agent called him to star as Max Evans – a reserved, brooding 16-year-old high school student descended from space aliens in a pilot called “Roswell” to be shot back in Los Angeles. Once Chris’ romantic interest in “Dawson’s” was killed off, “Roswell” was green-lighted.
Based on the “Roswell High” books by Melinda Metz, the show revolves around Max, his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and their friend Michael Guerin (Brendan Fehr) – all in possession of extraordinary powers apparently inherited from survivors of the incendiary crash of a spacecraft from another galaxy that is rumored to have taken place near Roswell, N.M., in 1947.
The trio are wanted by a variety of forces, including the FBI and a handful of other federal agencies, and their deep, dark secret is nearly revealed when Max is compelled to save the life of Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) from a gunshot wound – with his bare hands. The loose- lipped Liz naturally confides in her brain-dinged best friend, Maria (Majandra Delfino), and they do their best to keep the truth from their childhood buddy, Alex (Colin Hanks, Tom’s son), etc.
“The series is built on a terrific concept with infinite story possibilities, ” says Mr. Behr, who obviously has an ax to grind. “It’s only inferred that they are connected to the ’47 crash. Surrogate parents may be involved. There may be other aliens out there, possibly in a conspiracy with other types of aliens or, perhaps, our government. They have never been examined by doctors. We don’t even know their body structure.”
* * *
A native the Minneapolis suburb of Richfield, Mr. Behr is tight-lipped about his family for reasons of his own. His parents were divorced when he was young, leaving his free-spirited mother to fend for her four sons and one daughter. Mr. Behr’s father (“not somebody I want to talk about much”) is no longer part of the equation. A rich childhood fantasy life and a passion for movies propelled him toward acting at an early age.
His mother and siblings strongly encouraged his participation in school plays from the time he was able to memorize lines.
“Acting seemed natural and fun to me,” he says, “and the whole family
supported everything I did. My mother was always there, but never threw me into anything that I did not initiate. Her attitude was always, `Whatever you want to do, Jason.’ ”
Mr. Behr made his professional acting debut at the age of 6 in “A Season’s Greeting,” a Christmas-themed telefilm for CBS shot in various parts of Minnesota during a particularly nasty winter.
“I don’t remember much of it except bitter cold and snowstorms,” he says. “I was singing `We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ with three other kids on the back of a horse-drawn sleigh. I thought the guy in the beard and fuzzy hat was Abraham Lincoln.”
He continued performing throughout his time at Richfield High School, where he made the transition from character actor to leading man in the 11th grade.
“Something happened that year,” Mr. Behr says. “I was always small, thin and short, about shoulder height on most of my girlfriends, then suddenly filled out and shot up to 6 feet. But I still look very young for my age and keep playing high school teen-agers.”
With what he perceived as “limited show-business opportunities in
Minneapolis,” there was no doubt where Mr. Behr was going after picking up his high school diploma. It took him six months of odd jobs to raise enough money for the airfare.
“As luck would have it, an acquaintance from junior high school called one day from L.A. saying he needed a roommate and was I interested? A week later, I packed a suitcase and jumped on a plane,” he recalls.
Cut off from his tight-knit family and old friends, he says, he found the first two years in Southern California rather rough, but that eased gradually as members of his family drifted out to the greater Los Angeles area.
“My younger brother Aaron Behr, also an actor, came first, followed by
another younger brother. Then my mother found a new home in a nearby desert community. They wanted to get away from the cold. And it’s great to be around family during holidays.”
Single and apparently without a current girlfriend, Mr. Behr makes his home in the San Fernando Valley and spends as much time as possible with close friends.
“I’m in a very happy place in my life right now, and I want to share it with people who mean a lot to me,” he explains. “It doesn’t make any difference what we do as long as we have fun doing it. I don’ t care if it’s taking in a movie, camping in the mountains or fishing in the ocean. I enjoy all that stuff.”