Coming of Age would hit the airwaves the week I turned 14.
Not that I knew that.
I still never knew when it played and on what stations in my area.
Middle school life in my Effin Evangy Kidz™ private school was predictable and cloistered.
I dabbled in sports, but as a late bloomer I could no longer physically keep up with the bigger kids. And where I had been very athletic as a little kid… in middle school those dreams washed out pretty fast.
The school was so small there was no theater or performing arts program.
And the christian theater that I had been a part of for many years and had gotten me most of the gigs I would get, the woman who ran it went through a serious cancer relapse and the theater would end up closing down. I don’t remember when it happened but I was already starting to age out of that community, too.
Once the kids start getting pimples and boobs and inconvenient boners suddenly they aren’t so cute anymore, are they? Harder to get the kid’s families to buy all those tickets to see little so-and-so in the christmas pageant when little so-and-so is wearing black nail polish and being surly.
A significant piece of this entire experience that I have yet to address, largely because I’m still not certain how much I want to bring this thread from my life into the story is: my family.
My parents were not into show business.
That is something that separates me from most child actors.
My parents had absolutely zero interest in the Industry, in being famous, they were terrified of Hollywood, like good conservatives and Fucking Evangelicals™ are supposed to be.
And if there is a part of my narrative that is even more unique to other peers that I didn’t have… most kid actors and pop stars had really pushy parents that wanted their cute kids to live out their dreams of stardom.
My parents were the exact opposite. They did NOT want me to be a kid actor.
It terrified them that I was good at this.
And the better and better I got at it, and the more success I was having at booking gigs… the more they would… put the damper on forward momentum.
It’s hard to explain this part fairly because my parents are still alive and will probably disagree with some of the assessments I’ll lay out in the blog here.
Also, in fairness, my parents DON’T WANT TO BE KNOWN.
And so to figure out how to tell my story, which obviously involves having parents and the decisions they made and how that would affect things, and their inherent problems which they have a right to privacy of some sort. And so there’s a certain part of my story that I can not tell… yet.
If I live longer than they do… I’ll feel safe enough to fully exhale.
My mother once turned down an agent right in front of me.
I had been doing Hansel & Gretel at the local christian theater. I don’t know what part of the Bible Hansel & Gretel are from? The minor prophets that nobody reads?
After a performance one day, a woman approached my mom and presented her a card saying she was an agent scouting for kids and she liked what I did– I was Hansel, btw. Technically, I was the understudy for Hansel because the kid who scored the part looked more like Hansel. The last weekend the understudies got to perform and after the first performance I did the director came up to me and apologized for not casting me as the lead. “I was wrong to cast the other kid and not you.” And 10 minutes later this agent asked my mom to represent me.
^ That is an absolutely true AF story, btw. AND IT WOULDN’T BE THE ONLY TIME A DIRECTOR WOULD APOLOGIZE FOR NOT CASTING ME IN THE LEAD ROLE. I’m freakishly good at this in a way I think I don’t even understand. Not bragging… just this is the reality of my weird as fuck life story.
My mother who did not want me to have a career in show business… said, “No thank you.”
This would be a massive point of contention as my adolescence progressed.
For my parents, Acting was an extra-curricular activity. Like soccer or little league after school. And my parents, to their credit, were not the pushy parents yelling at the ref because their little super star needs a full ride to Stanford.
I WISH THEY HAD BEEN LIKE THAT A LITTLE MORE.
Because, I had found my life’s calling at the ripe old age of 10. And now I’m 14 and I’m itching to get more into The Industry. And they don’t want that at all.
No. I’m supposed to finish high school. Go to college. And then get a real job.
And the fact that their little Phenom is getting paychecks at this Acting side gig, I imagine there was a part of them that thought it wouldn’t last. That once I aged out I’d get into other things.
“Can I PLEASE have an agent?”
“You don’t understand how awful that industry is.”
And fight after fight. Argument after argument. Year after year.
“But I’m good at this!”
“Those people will take advantage of you!”
And the Fucking Evangelicals™ won’t?!?
My Dad worked in sales and traveled a LOT.
As a result these battles were mostly had with my Mom. And she was the gatekeeper of how much or how little I got to do this Acting stuff. And she was the religious parent (Dad never gave a shit and I think always had very mixed feelings about us being raised in the cult but he wasn’t around and figured some church was better than no church).
And so, the only way she would let me express this… skill set I had… was if I was doing it in the context of a religious environment. She trusted Christian Theater Lady because… she’s a christian!
In the Fucking Evangelical™ world all you have to do is say you’re christian and christians will trust you with their entire lives. Which is great when it’s somebody saying that honestly. But, it’s the easiest fucking hack of all time if you’re a lying psychopath.
I was allowed to do the theater… because it’s Jesusy.
I was allowed to do Adventures in Odyssey… because it’s Jesusy AND the Jesus Theater Lady made the connection. Therefore my Mom could trust them.
And that was it. Most of my work and bookings came through those two outlets. And when Theater Lady got sick… and when AIO wrote me out of the show…
I had no outlet.
And I was being blocked by the parents.
A deep and profound sadness descended on my life.
I tried other things. Drums. Juggling. Magic. Was into the circus arts for awhile thought I might get into clowning. Ran the light board at my church. Writing. I mean I never suffered from boredom. I always was into something.
It was probably around this time that I began to start writing scripts.
A side benefit of getting to do all this Acting work is that by the ripe old age of 14 I’d been working with a lot of scripts.
And while I may have issues with how the show is used in the Evangelical Industrial Complex and the agendas of certain people… it is undeniable that I had the luxury of working with two immensely talented and prolific writers. Others would come in toward the end of my tenure but it was effectively two guys during the bulk of my run.
Playing Jimmy was a world class education in script writing. And to understand in real world applications how professional actors worked with these creative products and the science and art behind it. A script has to be extremely specific while being simultaneously vague enough that Actors can breathe their life and creative input into it. It’s an incredibly delicate dance to do well.
And I learned from two of the best.
And so I would dabble and write plays.
If I can’t act… I can at least imagine what I want to be acting IN.
And that helped for awhile… but it never satisfied. In some ways it’s more frustrating to write scripts and then not have casts to make them come alive.
It became necessary to let the Acting dream go… I had only done it for 3 years. And while I was pretty sure I was good at it… I really hadn’t had anyone confirm that to me much. And nobody in my world knew the program or had ever seen me Act.
It was this separate life I had. No pictures of proof. No trophies. No… pizza parties to wrap a season.
Frankie Muniz got to buy race cars for doing his show.
I got a bicycle I wasn’t allowed to feel happy about.
Once I was written out.. it was like the show never existed in my life.
Had I dreamt the experience?
The longing never ceased though.
Every day I wake up since I was 10 years old the only thing I want to do is tell stories through Acting. Audio Theater. Film. It’s never changed.
It never left me. It’s what I am. It’s in my DNA.
But, I’m not in charge of my life and have no power at 14 and what can I do?
I can remember that frustration sitting in 7th grade as it turned into 8th grade and wondering if I would ever get to do it again. Turning 18 and moving away seemed like it would never arrive. 4 years was a life time. And I have to do college?!? So it’s not gonna be until 8 years from now that I’ll have the freedom to see if I can Act again. That SUCKS.
In the first months after Coming of Age I would go back and listen to the older favorite episodes. Mostly so I could hear the voices of Hal and Will and Katie and Chris who I missed. But, as months passed by I gave that up. Too painful.
I’m sure they’re not missing me.
No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™.
It rang in my head endlessly…
I couldn’t stop thinking about the unfairness of it all.
The skill is still there, right?
I mean I understood the realities of the Acting Profession no matter how incorrect they are.
For example: I can not play every part that has ever been written in every film, tv show, or radio play.
But I SHOULD play every part that has ever been written in every film, tv show, or radio play. Almost every film made is suffering from a severe lack of Dave Griffin in it. It’s really sad, actually. I worry that audiences everywhere are deprived.
And so even though I disagree with how the Industry is run… I am willing to politely play along with the rules that stipulate “Dave is not allowed to play every part written.”
So, I got it.
It was a little kid’s show.
And now I’m a big, gross teenager…
But I can still do the gig.
I understood WHY the other kid had been picked as the lead for Hansel. He was super blonde and looked very German.
But once I played the part it was clear that I should have played all the roles. Gretel. The Witch. The oven. The breadcrumbs.
Y’all have never seen the emotional vulnerability I can bring to a lonely breadcrumb left on forest floor. The nuance. The pathos.
No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™.
What about the audience kids that were my age when I started? AREN’T THEY THE SAME AGE AS ME NOW?!? AREN’T THERE STILL STORIES TO BE TOLD ABOUT BEING A TEENAGER???????????????????
(this is the part of my life where I learned to start pitching myself in the context of the needs of a show)
Dumb. Mean faces. With their stupid show.
I DON’T EVEN WANT TO BE ON YOUR STUPID SHOW ANYMORE ANYWAY
Dave… you’re not gonna believe this…
Focus called! THEY WANT YOU AGAIN!!
This is the story of:
No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 186- The Conscientious Crossing Guard
I think it was almost a full year. The longest year of my life.
And years in teenager time are like dog years. I think I grew 3 inches that year. The whiskers started coming in. The Jackson Pollackesque splotches of acne everywhere.
And in the intervening time, Focus on the Family had moved from Pomona, California to new swank facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
This meant that I would never go back to the facility I knew ever again.
It meant that the AIO team would now have to fly out and book a full week in a Burbank Studio and the casts would have to all be present. No more isolated recording– full casts. From here on out.
And the place we went to was called the Marc Grau Studios.
It’s not the first time that hooks you in an addiction.
It’s the second time.
When The High is even greater.
That’s when you get hooked.
I had just started thinking about finally laying this dream down because I’ll never get to the Industry.
Being stuck in Pomona.
And now we’re driving into Burbank and there’s Hollywood–
AND YESSS PUSH THE NEEDLE DEEPER IN.
And we’re at the Marc Grau Studios where he has a literal. fucking. wall. of pictures with every Actor that has ever existed in the history of the world.
YESSSSS THEE NEEEEDLE GOESSSS DEEEEEEEEPPPPEEEEER.
Marc Grau is a show business fucking legend.
He’s worked with everybody.
He grew up in the business learning it from his Dad.
His family’s blood is in the cement of that town.
PUUUUSH THEEEE DRUUUUGGG INTTOOOO YOOOOUUUURRR VEEEEEIIIIINSS
And as you enter the nondescript building from the outside you walk into one of the most gorgeous studios you’ve ever been in.
And down the long hallway into the greenroom and there’s my Uncles!
RELEASES THE TOURNIQUET…… EYES…. GLAAZE… OVER…
David… meet Dave Madden.
For the record I’ve never done heroin.
BUT I’M MAKING A POINT HERE.
It would be my second round with the show that would fully annihilate any chance my mother would ever have of hoping this dream would die in me.
I was fully hooked now.
It was bad.
I had made it… to Hollywood!
WHICH IS MORE BAD ASS ANYWAY.
Hollywood is where everyone not in the industry thinks the industry is. The bulk of the really cool shit is in Burbank, though. Studio City. The places that are less flashy. Hollywood is for the tourists.
Burbank is where the business is.
I had made it… to Burbank!!
Uh. Wow. That… is… a much less impressive sentence.
I HAD MADE IT TO HOLLYWOOD!!
And now I’m meeting a new Legend of the Business, Dave Madden IMDB.
Actually. Two legends were met that day.
I’ll save the other one for the next post.
And… hey that’s odd.
There’s two of the other main boys that had been written out of the show before me.
YOU SAID WE WOULDN’T GET USED ANYMORE!!!
I was confused and concerned about that for precisely 0.000351 seconds.
This was not a Jimmy Barclay episode.
Oh…. so… like before I got Jimmy?
Now that our voices have changed… we can play new characters again?
I’m cool with that.
Not gonna lie… I really was enjoying playing Jimmy… be nice to finish his story– BUT I’M JUST GLAD TO BE BACK IN THE MIX AGAIN AND DUSTING OFF THE MIC SKILLS.
Marking my lines that first time back…
The High is so great…
you’ll never be able to quit.