Myles Jeffrey


Food for thought

When Myles Jeffrey got started on his acting career, his mom says she didn't have a clue about how the business worked.
But Laura Jeffrey has been a quick study.

We asked her to share some of her insights for families that might be thinking about getting a child involved in acting.

Her tips:
• Think about whether this is the right fit for your child. "If you've got a kid who can't behave himself at home, he's probably not going to behave on the set, either."
• Keep it in perspective. "It's just something you want to do for fun. Don't be too serious."
• Follow your child's lead. "If you are trying this and your child is not happy, if they don't want to miss a birthday party because you've got a call back, ask yourself why you're doing this."
• Don't ever pressure your kids to perform in the way you think they should. "Let them trust their instincts."
• Don't be afraid to ask for help from family or friends when juggling your schedule.
• Don't pay anybody money to get an agent. Contact the Screen Actors Guild and get a list of agents. Or get a book that explains the process. Her favorite: "Launching Your Child in Show Biz: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide" by Dick Van Patten.
• Make sure you are available. "You have to be available. Once you make a commitment, you need to follow through."
• Set your own rules or limits on what parts you will allow your child to do. The Jeffreys have turned down parts that required Myles to use language they find unacceptable, to smoke, to work in situations that might be dangerous because they involved explosions, to do something with a girl beyond kissing.
"I caution against any parent just saying we're going to do this because they want him for the role. There are people out there who don't have a safe concept. You have to put your child's safety and emotional well-being ahead. You have to be able to step away."

Myles to go
What's it like to have an actor in the family?

Look at a week in the life of Myles Jeffrey and his family, as recorded by his mom, Laura Jeffrey.

This is what their schedule was like April 29-May 5:

Monday: Wake up at 5:15 a.m. Leave house at 5:45 to get to Universal Studios. We are due on the set of "Time Cop II" at 7 for makeup and hair and have to leave enough time in case there is traffic. Luckily there isn't much so we stop at Starbucks in Burbank.
Arrive on set at 6:50, get some breakfast, then Myles goes to his trailer and gets his wardrobe on.
7:15 a.m., go to hair and makeup trailer, meet the star of the movie, who is getting his finishing touches. (Very nice.)
7:45, meet with the studio teacher, then go to tour the set, looking for director, who is a friend.
8:30, Myles goes to school for a while as they prepare for his shot.
10, Myles does his scenes, then hangs out with his friends on the set, the props guy and the director, Steve Boyum.
1 p.m., lunch break.
2-2:45, back to the school trailer.
3:15, leave for home. Now there is traffic.
4:45, get home, and Kyle has a baseball game. We get dinner on the field.
9:30, bedtime.

Tuesday: 6:45 a.m., get up Myles and Kyle.
8, leave for school. It's SAT 9, testing today, so it's a half-day.
Noon, kids get out. We go out for lunch with friends.
2 p.m., they go to the park to play football.
5, dinner; TV.
9, bedtime

Wednesday: Same morning and school routine.
Noon, get out of school and have lunch.
2 p.m., leave for coaching in Burbank for movie.
4, get a snack before audition
4:45, arrive at Universal Studios for audition.
6, leave audition. This was a long wait and they were way behind schedule, but some friends of Myles were there, so they talked. Hank Azaria was there and Tiffiney Thiessen, whom Myles used to work with on "Beverly Hills, 90210," so it wasn't bad.
6:20, stop at In-N-Out for a burger before hitting the freeways.
8, get home and ready for bed

Thursday: Same a.m. routine.
1 p.m., leave for voice-over job, "Stuart Little."
3-6, work.
7, get home, late dinner.
9, bedtime.

Friday: Same a.m. routine. Last day of SAT 9 testing.
Noon, lunch at home.
12:45 p.m., leave for fashion-show fitting.
1:30, arrive at fashion show, meet Tippi Hedren, Florence Henderson and Kelly Preston. Get into wardrobe and talk to E! Channel "Style" segment.
2:30, leave downtown L.A. for Studio City.
3:15-6, voice-over work for "Recess."
6:30, stop for dinner at manager's house. Myles plays with her children and has fun.
9, get home

Saturday: Go to Kyle's baseball game.

Sunday: Go to church, then visit friends.

    

The Kid

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

By THERESA WALKER
The
Orange County Register

 

MYLES JEFFREY, 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 television industry.

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 Long Beach.

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 vacuuming.

"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 appearances.

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 the bathroom.

A 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 Jeffreys say.

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 income.

"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 coach.

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."

NATURAL CURIOSITY

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 curiosity."

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 safety.

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 them.

"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 ego.

"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?' "

Mostly girls?

"Well, actually it was all girls."

A FUN JOB

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, too.

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 distractions.

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."

STEADY VETERAN

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 is.

"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."

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