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An Alien’s Best Friend: Colin Hanks Article

From the New Jersey Bergen Record:

An alien’s best friend
Monday, November 13, 2000

Staff Writer

Sure, it might be cool to play an alien — especially in a show named “Roswell.”

But Colin Hanks says he’s having a fine time playing an average guy, Alex Whitman, in the WB’s extraterrestrial-teens-among-us drama.

“A lot of people really respond to Alex as such a good friend, which is really cool,” says Hanks. “He’s just like the best friend that’s always sort of in your corner and would bend over backwards to help you.”

Over coffee in the restaurant of his Manhattan hotel one morning, Hanks amiably responds to every topic posed — from his Oscar-winning dad to his good-guy character.

His Alex is one of the few humans in “Roswell” who know the big secret about Max Evans (Jason Behr), his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl), and their friend Michael Guerin (Brendan Fehr): They’re the surviving descendants of beings who died in a fiery 1947 alien spacecraft crash in the desert. Since emerging from incubation a decade before, the trio had grown up quietly among residents of Roswell, N.M., bearing not only the burden of their true identity, but also, the usual adolescent angst.

Last season, Alex had a romantic flirtation with the beautiful Isabel. But in last season’s stunning finale, the aliens learned more about their planet and destiny — including the fact that Isabel was betrothed to Michael.

“I still have a thing for Isabel, but I think the whole Isabel-Alex thing is going to take a little trip to the back burner for a little while,” Hanks says. “In light of the information the characters were given in the final episode last year — hey, she can’t really be dating this geek with the baggy pants.”

Alex’s image was one of the things that appealed to Hanks, who was originally slated to audition for only the role of Kyle Valenti, the sheriff’s son. But at the last minute, executive producer Jason Katims asked if he’d read for Alex as well.

“He’s not this pretty boy. He doesn’t really have any specific sort of motive. He’s just a good friend, and that was the coolest thing about Alex for me,” Hanks says. “And his two best friends are two girls. That was something I could relate to. I was raised in a house with my mom and my sister, so I’m used to being around girls.”

Hanks, 22, is the son of Tom Hanks and his first wife, actress-producer Samantha Lewes. He grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and throughout high school, appeared in plays — which his father faithfully attended.

“He’d fly up to Sacramento and see my plays. That was just my dad from Los Angeles flying up to where I lived the majority of the year with my mother and watching me do my extracurricular activity,” Hanks says. “He also went and saw me play basketball the season I played basketball.”

Hanks threw himself into the theater scene when he went to Loyola Marymount University in California, where he met his girlfriend, actress Busy Philipps (who played Kim in “Freaks and Geeks”).

“She’d say, ‘this is what I’ve wanted to do all my life,’ and I really fed off that, and when she started going off and finding an agent and a manager and all that stuff, that really inspired me to do it.”

Then, too, he says, “Seeing my dad, all my life, working the ways he’s worked up — I guess you can say it sort of inspired me.

“One of the great perks was that I could visit my dad on his job, and he had a lot of time to sit around,” Hanks says. “We’d sit there and play cards, and you got to meet all kinds of people, and I got to watch and to experience what a professional actor has to go through and what the routine was like. It’s not like i was sitting there taking notes, but … it sort of crept up on me.”

When Hanks informed his dad that he wanted to pursue an acting career, he recalls, “All he pretty much said is, ‘Well, you could do it. You have the talent, and you should go for it.’ And that was really all he sort of needed to say.

“I sort of did it on my own pretty much. I never really asked him for much help, which is ironic, because you’d think if you have the encyclopedia of acting sitting there at home, you’d be asking questions, but no. He just sort of said, ‘You got my blessings. Go for it. Good luck.’ And it’s nice, because you always want your parents to be proud of you.”

While he had a small role in “That Thing You Do” — which was directed by his dad, who also appeared in the 1996 movie — “Roswell” really marks young Hanks’ professional acting debut.

Making “Roswell” is everything he thought it would be.

“The hours are rough, but I love it,” Hanks says. “Jason [Katims] wants this to be a fun working experience, and that’s exactly what it is for me. I love showing up to work. It’s a good time, and it’s make-believe, and it’s fun, and I get along with everybody. But it is hard work.”

Lately, “Roswell” has gotten to be an even more dangerous place for the alien trio, since the arrival of “The Skins,” who are very bad aliens.

“There’s a little bit more science fiction this year, which is very cool, cause that opens up all sorts of new doors,” Hanks says.

He says he’s grateful to the fans of “Roswell,” who saved the cult hit last season by bombarding the WB with letters, e-mails — and little bottles of Tabasco sauce (an alien favorite).

“The fans are the reason why we’re back,” Hanks says. “And their support definitely helped the morale of everybody on the show.”