Eleven-year-old Myles Jeffrey is a busy, successful child actor who
trades lines with superstar performers, but the role he likes best is
that of a regular guy.
July 7, 2002
third from left, works with Mark Hamill, left, and others doing
voices from the coming 'Stuart Little' animated series on HBO.
Source: Cindy Yamanaka / The Register
At first you're not sure
what to make of the shrug of a self-description from Myles Jeffrey.
"I'm just a regular kid,"
the 11-year-old says, "who has a job."
He tells you this after
rolling across the tiled floor of his home in Orange County in
tennis-shoe skates, popping open a soda can as he comes to a stop.
He shows you the trophies
he got for playing hockey, his collection of rhinoceros figures -
stuffed, carved, and molded from plastic - and the electric guitar in
the corner of his room that his older brother is teaching him to play.
He talks about the fun he
has in-line skating, snowboarding, wakeboarding and jumping on the
trampoline in his back yard.
Lots of typical preteen
activity going on there.
Still, you're not sure
just how much of a regular kid he really can be because his job
isn't that of a regular kid.
He doesn't mow lawns. He
doesn't baby-sit the kid next door. He doesn't walk the dog for the lady
down the street.
Instead he trades lines
with the likes of John Travolta, Sally Field, Hilary Swank, Drew Carey
and other Hollywood notables. The same people whose photographs line a
wall in his room, giving it the feel of a favorite celebrity haunt.
Myles Jeffrey is an
actor. And a pretty darn good one, by all accounts.
Since making his debut in
a pizza commercial at 5, Myles has worked steadily in the film and
If you caught the season
finale of "Touched By An Angel," that was Myles whose guilt over his
sister's death brought tears to your eyes.
He played Hilary Swank's
son Zach in "Beverly Hills, 90210" and was a regular on the show "Early
Edition." He's won several nominations and awards honoring child actors.
Every now and then, he
pops up on the Disney Channel whenever it replays the movies "Stepsister
from Planet Weird" and "Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire," in which one
reviewer called him a "real scene stealer."
That's his voice you'll
hear in several animation series: George Little in HBO's spinoff of the
hit movie "Stuart Little," T.J. in Disney's "Recess" and Cubey in
Cartoon Network's "Robot Jones."
And he just got back last
week from Vermont, where he was filming "Frozen Impact," an independent
film in which he co-stars with Stacey Keach, Linda Pearl and Ted
McGinley. It's a family-friendly disaster film that could be released
this year or early next year.
He has a publicist, an
agent, a manager and the occasional acting coach who work to help him
succeed at his job.
He also has a mom, a dad
and two brothers who work at helping him succeed at being a regular kid
- and at keeping the family lifestyle as regular as possible.
Given the roll call of
kid actors who have grown up to be troubled adults with rotten family
relationships, you have to wonder who has the more challenging task, the
agents or the parents?
"I want his life to be
normal," says Dave Jeffrey, who operates a crane for a dredge barge in
There have been times,
Dave Jeffrey says, when his youngest son comes home from a set where
everyone has been catering to him and seems a little bit too cocky.
Dave Jeffrey has a quick
remedy for that: "I'll tell him to go out in the back yard and pick up
after the dog."
His brothers sometimes
complain about Myles not emptying the dishwasher as often as they do.
But like his brothers, he doesn't leave for school without making his
bed. He gets his own cereal and rinses out his bowl. He takes his turn
"We all have to do this
together to make this work. Sometimes one has to do more than the other,
depending on who's doing what. We have to be flexible," says Laura
Jeffrey, who stopped working outside of the home when her boys were
younger but can't return now because of her commitment to Myles' career.
She's the one who
navigates the freeways to take him to all his acting appointments in the
L.A. area. The one who handles the phone calls, the e- mails, the faxes about
auditions, call backs, shooting schedules, charitable events and other
She's the one who keeps a
calendar for everyone at home that says who has a baseball game, who has
a music recital, who has to empty the trash - just so the family can
keep track of one another.
She's also the one who
travels with Myles for jobs that take him out of the state or out of the
country. The one who stays on the set to make sure he gets time for
schoolwork or to rest or have some fun. The one who reminds him to use
DOSE OF REALITY
Whenever a parent says to
Dave Jeffrey that they'd like to get their child into acting, he has a
dose of reality ready.
"I tell them, 'Can you
make ends meet and have your wife not work?'"
People don't realize the
time commitment involved - and make the wrong assumption that a child
with a successful acting career lands a family in the lap of luxury, the
By law, 15 percent of the
money Myles makes goes into a trust fund until he is an adult.
Expenses also must be
taken out of his pay: 10 percent to his agent, 10 percent to 20 percent
to his manager, taxes, phone bill, gas and parking, union dues, head
shots, resumes, publicity.
So far, his mom says,
Myles has saved enough money to be able to pay for any college he'd like
to attend and even buy himself a house, depending on where he wants to
live and how much he spends on college. She did not disclose his exact
"He isn't getting a
million a picture yet, but someday I expect he will. We haven't chosen
to do this for the money, but there is some to be made. His projects
have been picked for other reasons: How will this benefit a career? Is
it in a place he wants to travel to? Who will he be working with?
"He could make much more,
if that was the goal. But it's not."
Her family is not that
much different from others who nurture a child with a standout talent,
such as a Tiger Woods or a Michelle Kwan, or, for that matter, a family
with children involved in a lot of activities, Laura Jeffrey says.
Besides Myles' career,
there's brother Kyle's athletic endeavors and brother Ryan's pursuit of
a music career with the band Frequency 5.
The Jeffreys can't
control when Hollywood calls. But Laura Jeffrey says she won't sacrifice
Myles' well-being or that of her family for a part.
"He doesn't work because
he has to," she says, "he works because he wants to."
She'll ask to reschedule
an appointment or turn down an audition - although weighing the
consequences to Myles' career beforehand.
This is the case one
afternoon when Myles leaves school at 1 p.m. with several appointments
scheduled. It starts with a 2 p.m. in Burbank for a half-hour "looping"
session to dub in a few lines for "Touched By An Angel."
The session runs late and
they rush a few blocks over to squeeze in a half-hour with an acting
coach. Laura Jeffrey drops off her son and heads to a nearby McDonald's
to get him something to eat. (She knows what fast-food joints are in the
vicinity of the places Myles has to go to and the shortcuts to get to
them.) She waits by the pool in the back yard while Myles works with the
Myles has an audition for
the part of the boy in a movie version of "The Cat in the Hat." It's at
4:45 p.m., several miles away through crosstown traffic.
But earlier in the day,
while at a music recital for Ryan, the producers of "NYPD Blue" left a
cell-phone message asking if Myles could come by at 3:45 p.m. for an
audition. This one in the opposite direction.
Laura Jeffrey takes the
chance of asking for, and getting, a rescheduled audition for "The Cat
in the Hat." Myles is tired, there's a lot of driving to do, and it's
just too much for one afternoon.
"It's hard," she says of
keeping a healthy balance between the demands of Myles' career and the
need to take care of him and the rest of her family. "It's not like I've
never questioned myself and wondered how this is affecting everybody.
But if he was the best ice skater and had the potential for the Olympics
and he was driven to do it, it's the same thing."
He may not be a big name
like Haley Joel Osment. But Myles' mom wonders if her redheaded son
won't go on to the same sort of success enjoyed by another redhead who
began as a kid actor.
That would be Ron Howard
she's talking about.
It's not just Myles'
coppertone locks that prompt such thinking in Laura Jeffrey. It's the
way he handles himself on a set, his interest in the filmmaking process.
His favorite movie is
"Gladiator." For the camera angles and cinematography. He wants to write
and direct someday.
"He's not afraid to ask,
'Can I look through the camera lens?' 'What are you using on my hair?'
or 'Why this angle?'" his mom says. "He just seems to have a natural
Not to mention intellect.
Myles started reading at
age 3 and has skipped one grade in school. Like his brother Kyle, 13,
he's a member of Mensa, the society for people whose scores on a
standard intelligence test put them in the top 2 percent of the
population. (Mom says oldest son Ryan, 17, would qualify, too, but it
doesn't interest him.)
By his own choice, Myles
goes to public school. His mom asked that the name of his school and
where the family lives not be published to protect Myles' privacy and
Home schooling allows
more flexibility, but you miss schoolmates, Myles says.
"If you're home-schooled,
you do have friends, but you don't get to see them every day. I just
wanted to be a regular kid."
Girls post messages on
his online chat bulletin board like "5 things I love about Myles: 1.
He's so hot and so cute ... "
But he gets no more
special treatment at school than he does at home, according to best
friend Patrick Murray.
For one thing, he's not a
novelty. Other kid actors go to the same school. For another, Myles
doesn't behave like he's anything special, says Patrick, 13, an aspiring
actor who admires how Myles is so natural on screen.
"He doesn't walk around
going, 'Oh, I'm better than him.' If you think about it, a lot of kids
might be star- struck. That's like the opposite of what he is."
Some kids also might
think Myles is lucky because he gets to leave school early some days or
is gone for extended periods of time. But Myles figures he actually does
more work because he has to take all his assignments along and finish
"I do stuff that other
kids may not even get to," he says.
When on location out of
state or country, his mom has it written into his contract that he be
given a minimum break of three hours a day to do schoolwork - the
standard for child actors in California.
Myles says he gets most
of it done in class. If not, his mom makes sure he finishes it at home.
"She's all on top of
that," Patrick says. "I would think it would be pretty hard. He's
missing a lot of school. Not that if I were him, I'd be complaining. If
I were him I probably wouldn't make up the work. But he brings it with
him. He handles it really well."
Patrick also notices how
well Myles handles the public, graciously signing autographs without an
"I see lots of kids
staring at him and whispering, 'That's the kid from the Disney Channel.'
It's really cool. He's like, 'It's no big deal.' If that was me, I'd be
all over it. He doesn't like to mention it.
"We went to a concert and
everyone all around him was, 'Oh, can I have your autograph?' "
"Well, actually it was
For Myles, it's the work
of acting - the "funnest" job - that he enjoys.
Really, is there anything
that can beat watching yourself die on screen?
That's what happened to
Myles in his first film role. At 6 he played the son of FBI agent John
Travolta in "Face Off." He's not in the movie for long - shot dead by
master assassin Nicolas Cage as the opening credits end. But it remains
memorable to Myles.
"It's cool! I had a blast
working on it. People are like, 'You got killed. Isn't that sad?' I'm
like, 'No, I think it's funny.'"
His acting career got
started when Laura Jeffrey followed up on someone's suggestion about
getting her three boys - one blond, one brunette and one redhead - into
commercials. She had photos made and sent to an agency on a list
obtained from the Screen Actors Guild.
Ryan, who had already
done a few commercials when he was a toddler, lost interest because of
all the driving involved. The family was living in Riverside County at
the time. The trips took so long that Myles used to think Los Angeles
was 500 miles away, "like Texas."
His big break actually
came when Kyle got called back for casting in a Domino's Pizza
commercial. It was at an ice- skating rink and Myles brought along his
skates just to have some fun.
After much begging, his
mom let him go on the ice as long as he avoided where the casting was
taking place. He didn't.
"He went right through
the center of them, doing little spins." And got hired along with Kyle.
Myles did a few other
commercials, auditioned for the part of Renee Zellweger's son in "Jerry
Maguire" (impressing writer-director Cameron Crowe, but they needed a
different look), then landed the part in "Face Off." He's worked
steadily ever since.
Kyle decided to pursue
athletics instead of acting. He plays baseball about four nights a week
and, when he's not doing that, plays hockey. He does a little modeling,
Myles says he'd like to
play hockey again and signed up for tackle football this summer.
Sometimes Myles and his
mom can be gone on location for days or weeks at a time. He's been to
Canada twice, to Australia and to South Africa.
On occasion, the rest of
the family uses frequent-flier miles to vacation where Myles is
shooting. But being apart is hard and that takes some of the luster off
the glamour of having a brother in show biz.
"I like having a brother
that acts because it is really cool to see him on the TV screen," Kyle
says. "The worst is not being able to see Myles and my mom often."
He e-mails them when he's
missing them, and "Now I've gotten used to it." On the recent trip to
Vermont, Kyle got to go along.
In the summer, when the
Hollywood dream factory winds down, the family takes an extended
vacation at Lake Havasu. It's their time to be together with no
Myles' mom wonders how
things would have turned out if he had gotten the part in "Jerry
Maguire" at such a young age or if another big break had come along.
"There are times when I
think as a parent, 'Oh, my gosh, the opportunities that could have
happened.' But I've come to realize that he's such a better actor
because he's really had to earn every single credit that he has."
Besides, she adds, "If
that would have happened and he shot to stardom, his head could be
bigger than a car."
If you watch Myles at
work, you get a better sense of what he means when he says he's just a
regular kid with a job.
You get to see the
veteran who is well-prepared and professional and can hold his own in a
milieu dominated by adults, some of whom have names you readily
recognize - even if Myles doesn't right away.
You also get to see the
irrepressible nature of an 11-year- old.
Take a recent voice-over
session for a "Stuart Little" episode. The cast includes a guest
appearance by Mark Hamill, doing the part of a scheming alley cat. Only
at first Myles has no idea who Hamill is until his mom informs him
that's Luke Skywalker.
Once settled into the
recording studio with the other seven actors and the director, Myles
sits quietly following the script and saying his lines, responding
readily to the director's suggestions for "more energy" or "more
disappointment." Just like everyone else.
You notice, however, that
he is the only one with a cookie in his hand and a can of Squirt by his
chair. Everyone else has a bottle of water. He's also the only one who
can't resist twirling the stand that holds his script.
During the rehearsal
break, while the adults are busy chatting about current projects, Myles
is also the only one exiting the conversation from time to time to glide
over to the refreshment table in his tennis-shoe skates, stuff a handful
of chips in his mouth, zoom up and down a ramp and turn circles.
His shoes catch Hamill's
attention: "I gotta see the bottom of those shoes. What's going on?"
They chitchat about the
cool clothes and toys kids have these days. Hamill asks Myles how old he
"So many things are right
in front of you," Hamill tells him.
No screenwriter could
script a better line than Myles' reply: "As long as my mom drives me."