Prinze Charming - From television to movies, the comedian's son
had been a long night for Freddie Prinze Jr. No, the young actor
wasn't out partying at the latest fashionable club. Nor was he
red-carpeting it at some movie premiere with Hollywood's flavour
of the moment on his arm. No, the 21-year-old actor and his friends
spent most of the night at their Toluca Lake rental house, watching
cartoons. Lots of cartoons. "I watch probably 26 hours a
day," he jokes. "I have a pretty boring life. I go home
every night. I read scripts. I break down scenes, or I write.
That's what I love to do."
co-star of this fall's box-office sensation "I Know What
You Did Last Summer" (he played sensitive teen Ray Bronson)
is hoping to make it as an actor without falling victim to Hollywood's
tempting trappings. To be sure, he has been a prominent part of
the "Last Summer" publicity blitz and has appeared on
what seems to be an endless number of hot young actors lists.
And he is dating actress Kimberly McCullough, who plays Robin
Scorpio on ABC's General Hospital. Nevertheless, he claims that
his life "is still pretty normal. People aren't running up
to me on the streets."
worries about money. His rental house is shared by several aspiring
actors, screenwriters, and comics. "It can get like a hotel
in there, depending on what time of the week you come through,"
he says. The son of the late comedian Freddie Prinze, Prinze Jr.
grew up outside the world of entertainment. The younger Prinze
was only 10 months old when his father, the star of Chico and
the Man, died in 1977 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. After
his father's death, his mother, Kathy Cochran, a real estate agent,
eventually moved with her son to Albuquerque. (She has since moved
to Las Vegas.)
is usually what people want to talk about -- my father and our
relationship with him and the things I deal with," Prinze
says. "Honestly, there is not a whole lot to talk about.
I wish there was. I mean, there are a lot of things other people
told me. Everybody said, 'Oh, I loved him so much. He was a great
man.' But I don't know anything about it. He loved my mom, I know
he loved making people laugh. And you know? That is about it.
We never had a chance to sit down over a burger. There's not a
whole lot I can say about it." Many friends did not even
know of his father's fame, he says, and acting wasn't on his agenda
until his late teens. His mother wanted him to be an environmental
engineer; Prinze had thoughts of becoming a psychologist. "I
got the chance to have a regular life," Prinze says. "She
wanted me to have a chance at normalcy."
enough to experience the usual bouts of teen angst. As a student
at Albuquerque's La Cueva High School, Prinze says he "didn't
fit into the right areas. I don't know what it was. Like when
I liked cartoons, they were no longer cool. When I wasn't playing
football, football was suddenly trendy. I was just always like
two steps ahead or two steps behind." His outlet was the
school speech and drama teams. "I didn't have tons of friends,
so I always used to pretend," he says. "But it was this
great feeling of loneliness because you could pretend, but there
was nobody around. In acting you pretend, but there are a bunch
of other people pretending with you." Shortly after his graduation,
in 1994, he took a local acting class and then made the leap to
Los Angeles, driving in a beat-up, gas-guzzling old Jeep and arriving
with little money. He lived with family friends in the San Fernando
Valley and worked at their Valley Ranch Barbeque Restaurant in
Van Nuys. "I was a broke guy," he says.
soon after, Prinze landeda guest spot on Family Matters as a punk
kid who brings a gun to school. "That was my big break, and
I thought it was huge," he says. He followed that with the
TV-movie Detention: Siege at Johnson High and an ABC Afterschool
Special, Too Soon for Jeff, but much of his attention lately has
been on a movie career, with roles as Claire Danes's boyfriend
in "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" and as Tori Spelling's
fiancé's brother in this fall's "The House of Yes."
"There's an honesty that comes through with him," says
"Gillian" director Michael Pressman. "He's an open
book. He got the role hands down because he was honest, warm,
and sweet." ;He recalls Prinze's sheepishness at having to
kiss Danes in one scene. "I could see his blushing face after
each kiss," he says. By the time "Last Summer"
went before the cameras in North Carolina last spring, Prinze
apparently had jettisoned any bashfulness and fit right in with
a host of other up-and-coming actors, including Sarah Michelle
Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Ryan Phillippe, and Jennifer
Love Hewitt (Party of Five). If Prinze was intimidated by the
process in earlier films, it didn't show while making "Last
Summer." "He was a big goofball," Hewitt says.
"He is the farthest you can get from shy. He was one of the
most outgoing people on the set. He could take anything anyone
was saying and make it into a joke." Yet he doubts that he
will follow in his father's footsteps in one arena, anyway: "A
couple of people have said, 'Why don't you do stand-up comedy?'
And that wasn't even a thought. I am just not that funny. So I
didn't do stand-up comedy. It had nothing to do with my father."
recently completed "Vig," an indie film in which he
plays a young, tough Boston bookmaker, with a cast that includes
Peter Falk, Lauren Holly, and Timothy Hutton. Next spring he hopes
to shoot the independent feature "Pool Hall Prophets,"
about a group of hustlers. (Prinze calls the film a cross between
"The Hustler" and "The Usual Suspects.") A
few years down the line, he may head to college if he can afford
it. "I've thought about that a lot, but it can't be in the
next couple of years," Prinze says. "I need to make
enough money to go. College is what? Twelve grand a semester?"
such monetary concerns, it's clear Prinze has splurged at least
once. At interview's end, he takes off for home -- in his new
© 1997 TV Guide Magazine. All rights reserved.