The stories of the small-town, starry-eyed kids who come to Hollywood almost on a whim are everywhere in Los Angeles, and almost as abundant are the stories of those forced to return home after finding the harsh reality of life as a struggling actor.
But for one Alabama native, the big dream has become a really big reality.
Drew Roy, 26, hails from Clanton, and graduated from Chilton County High School. His background is comfortable and familiar: His parents provided a good home life (his dad is a dentist, and his mom is a teacher; his sister is in school at UAB), and he had a scholarship lined up at the University of Alabama right after graduation.
He was excited about college life, but decided to head to Atlanta after graduation to see if he could make a little extra money using his good looks to land modeling gigs. There, he met a manager who dropped some names Roy was familiar with, and the manager soon convinced him to try his hand at acting in Los Angeles — even though he’d never acted before.
And off he went.
“Absolute stupid decision! I don’t recommend anybody doing it!” Roy laughs today, during a phone interview from LA. But for a guy who thrives on challenges, this was a big one.
“Once I got to LA and saw I was in over my head, that was one of the main motivations to work as hard as I did,” he said. “Luckily, luck was on my side.”
That hard work includes his featured role on the alien invasion series “Falling Skies,” produced by none other than Steven Spielberg (airing at 8 p.m. Sundays on TNT). The show takes place six months after the aliens have invaded, so the storylines revolve around how the humans deal with the more sophisticated aliens.
Roy plays Hal, one of three brothers who works with dad Tom (played by Noah Wyle) in a small pocket of resistance fighters.
The show has seemed to do well among viewers, and is one of TNT’s highest-rated series. That it’s a Spielberg project no doubt has led to heightened interest among sci-fi fans.
Roy has also appeared on the big screen; he co-starred in “Secretariat” with Diane Lane and John Malkovich. But he’s had more work on TV — besides “Falling Skies,” he had a role in the final season of “Hannah Montana,” playing a love interest to superstar Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus, and the level of fame she’s acquired at such a young age, intrigued Roy, and he was excited about meeting her and working with her.
“I was blown away at how down to earth she was,” he said. “She was a cool girl — she could be like any girl that you went to high school with … but she just happened to be chosen for that kind of lifestyle.”
As for himself, achieving that level of fame and notoriety isn’t necessarily something he’s ready for, at least not yet.
“I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to do a huge movie, but I definitely feel there’s a happy medium,” he said. “I respect the guys who are these character actors, who do fine work and are working all the time, but they can still walk down the road.”
Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and the like have all the money in the world, Roy said, but he wonders if it’s really worth it.
“It would be hard to turn down those projects because those guys get to do some amazing things, but I don’t think that’s the best case scenario.”
Roy said he still comes home to Clanton every Christmas, and usually one other time a year. In fact, he’s planning to be home for the July 4 holiday. His parents and sister take turns coming out to visit him in LA.
Coming back home keeps him in check, he said, and helps him remember where his roots are.
He enjoys getting together with friends when he’s home, but it’s not quite the same. “People have moved away, either to Birmingham or Montgomery. Everybody’s married now and has kids.
“It’s completely different than how it used to be.”
After meeting the manager in Atlanta, he made the move to LA, but he wasn’t alone. Several friends from Alabama were in a band, and they all decided to make the move together.
“It was an absolute blast,” he said. But it didn’t last. Within a couple of years, the bandmates decided that they might fare better if they returned to touring in the South, and Roy was alone in LA, not really knowing anybody else.
“That’s when I decided I’d better figure this thing out,” he said. “That’s when I buckled down, and things began to kind of start for me.”
But there were lean times in LA. He started out working as a valet at the Beverly Hills Hotel, home to swanky Hollywood parties and celebrities dropping by. He won’t forget that gig.
As far as his future, he said he’s happy doing a movie here and a TV show there. “There’s so many good things to be shot on TV these days, with the cable lineups.”
As long as he’s working, he’ll be happy, he said.
“As long as I don’t have to go back to valet parking at the Beverly Hills Hotel, I’ll be content.”