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'Red Oaks' star: A shy guy in a big role

By LUAINE LEE Tribune News Service Published: November 23, 2016 4:00 AM
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Actor Craig Roberts finds himself in a strange world. A dyed-in-the-wool introvert, he's the star of Amazon Prime's "Red Oaks," playing a college-age tennis pro at an exclusive New Jersey country club. Not only is he not college age (he's 25), he's not athletic and never was, and what's more, he's not even American.

Roberts is Welsh. How he pulls off a role like that is anybody's guess -- especially his. "One thing that I love about it (acting), I think for me it's the involvement in the industry, full stop," he says seated at a small, white-clad table in a hotel room here.

"The fact that I'm allowed to be part of something that's making people laugh or making people cry or whatever, or relaying information to people, I think it's the involvement as much as anything. I'm certainly not one of these actors that needs to completely transform themselves and escape my own reality in any kind of way. I'm just very grateful to be working," he says.

Roberts was 18 when he was cast in an independent movie called "Submarine," and that started things rolling. His dad, a retired council member, and his mom, a nurse, didn't object when he said he wanted to be an actor.

"My parents were happy I was just getting out of my bedroom," he says. "I was a recluse. I played my computer games a lot; I didn't really leave my bedroom. So for them, I think they were just happy I was interacting with other human beings, to be honest."

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Reacting with other human beings is still a challenge for Roberts, who's been shy since he was a kid. Crowds of people exhaust him. "I don't like to talk sometimes. I'm definitely not somebody who can talk for the sake of talking. I think I was like that as a kid, I would kind of observe."

The only connection his family had with show biz was Robert's grandfather, who entertained as a ventriloquist. "He used to dress up like Al Jolson, mimed him. He worked with a dummy, and left it to me."

The death of his grandfather had a profound affect on him, Roberts says. He still bears a scar on his finger from a time when he and his grandfather were working on a craft project and the scissors slipped, almost severing his finger.

Although he's been acting for 16 years, Roberts has entered the fields of writing and directing, feats he can attempt without being the center of attention. "A couple of years ago I started writing and directing because I wanted to do more things and challenge myself more," says Roberts, who's wearing dark pants, a white shirt and a black Levi's jacket.

"Some of the things related to acting I'm not very great with -- like promoting oneself. Like this interaction feels very rude of me," he says, pointing to the interviewer.

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"I feel like I should be asking you questions. I feel very rude. For me that's very uncomfortable, and it's like the elephant in the room.

"But as a writer-director hopefully I can be behind the scenes It's great. It's very cool. It's good to have so much pressure and you to be the blame for everything. That's really cool."

One thing that's helped him overcome his timidity is his sweetheart. "My current girlfriend is very good for me," he nods. "She made me realize what kind of person I am, I suppose, which is always very nice. She's training to be an actress. If we're both actors, we both know how weird the industry can be and how strange it can be as an industry. We're both very normal people, and if we're together, I feel like we can take it on.

"She's a lovely lady," he continues, " and just leveled me out as a human being, which is always lovely, and I think that's what's great about the world, people having information. This lady that I'm with has given me the most information about myself. I've never really been confused, but it's a strange feeling. Something aligns and things just feel all right. That's definitely the case. You need less effort for stuff. I feel very chilled out. There is no battle, there is no going to war. At the moment this lady is very much on the same page, which is very hard to find."

The second season of "Red Oaks" begins streaming Friday.

ACTRESS CREATES DOCUSERIES ABOUT SCIENTOLOGY

Leah Remini loves to stick her neck out and she's doing just that with her new docuseries, "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath," which begins airing on A&E Nov. 29. A one-time member of the church, the former star of "King of Queens," has been openly critical of the organization and its leader, David Miscavige. Each episode will include the experiences of former members who claim their lives have been troubled by Scientology's practices, even after they've left the church.

SERIES' SPIN ON RECORD PRODUCERS

The folks who love recorded music probably don't know much about the producer the guy to cobbles everything together and has the vision to do it right. PBS is going to fill that gap when it presents "Soundbreaking Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music" beginning next Monday. The eight-part series was begun by the late George Martin the grandmaster behind the Beatles' recordings.

It will feature some of the nation's most famous record producers and their secrets to creating unique sounds and wham-o hits. According to Jeff Dupre, producer and director of the series, each record producer enlists a different M.O. "George Martin's approach to the Beatles was almost Socratic in that he enabled them to realize their best selves as artists," he says.

"And then you contrast that with someone like Phil Spector, who has this dictatorial vision of what he wants. And, of course, the result is brilliant, but it's a very different relationship with the artist. And, then we see through the rest of the episode there are some artists like Joni Mitchell who's, like, 'I'm producing myself.' There's a story that she hired David Crosby just to stay at the door to tell people to go away."

LADY MARY DOWN AND DIRTY

Do you long to see Lady Mary from "Downton Abbey" with dirty fingernails? You just might get the chance with TNT's "Good Behavior," which begins airing Nov. 15. Michelle Dockery, who was so elegantly polished as Lady Mary, plays a woman whose scruples are, shall we say, flexible in this series. "I was very fortunate with 'Good Behavior' because 'Downton' was coming to an end, Series 6," she says. "And this script came to me, and I fell in love with the character and the story. And I was very fortunate that something so different from what I had been doing for the last six years came my way. So I was very fortunate, and I've loved it. We've had such a fun time, and it really is an amazing, amazing thing to be part of."

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(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)

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°2016 Luaine Lee

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): TV-TINSEL

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