CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY
It’s entirely possible that Chad Michael Murray was born to be an actor. And not just because he was always performing for his family at a young age. No, Chad is actually where he is today because of how he was born: specifically, a medical condition he was born with.
An old Hollywood story tells of the young starlet being discovered at the soda counter in a dime store. How many young actors and actresses are waiting tables in New York, while waiting for their big break? Chad didn’t go either of those routes. He was discovered in the hospital.
Born in 1981 in Buffalo, New York, Chad grew up with three brothers and a sister. (Later, half brother Tyler joined the siblings.) He was always goofing around and acting up. He’s told many interviewers that he started performing little skits for his family when he was as young as four years old. He was also very athletic, playing football regularly. (To this day, he still collects sports memorabilia, sometimes at significant expense!) It was football that would land Chad in the hospital in high school, where he would find his future as an actor.
“The Strongest Man I Know”
At the age of ten, though, Chad’s world was upended when his mother left. As Chad told Zap2It.com in September 2003, “I don’t think you can understand what it’s like to be a kid who has a parent just walk out of your life like that unless you’ve actually been through it. I’ve lived it.” He told calgarysun.com, “My mom abandoned me and my four brothers. . . . She put me on the bus for school one morning, saying she was going out of town for a couple of weeks. . . . She didn’t come back ’til I was eighteen.”
Clearly Chad’s father—an air traffic controller—stepped up to the plate and took on the enormous responsibility of raising this family by himself. Chad has only great things to say about his father, though it couldn’t have been easy. He had to raise Chad plus four of Chad’s siblings—five children in all. Five kids can be quite a handful for any family, let alone one headed up by a single parent who is employed full-time. As Chad told Guideposts for Teens, “(My dad) was so strong. He didn’t let the negative things get him down. His attitude was just, ‘Life goes on.’ And he did an incredible job.”
Chad credits his father with helping him to keep his head on straight in the sometimes chaotic world of Hollywood. “My dad put the fear of God in me when I was a little kid,” he told Teenhollywood.com. His father told him he had to pay attention and keep his wits about him if he wanted to succeed in life. Chad clearly took his advice!
Chad = Nerd?!
Chad was far from Mr. Popular in school. In fact, he considered himself a nerd.
Yes, you read that right. Chad will be the first person to tell you, or anyone, that he was a nerd. He told thewb.com, “I was such a nerd in high school. Man, I had no friends. I didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t get all the cool clothes like everybody else. I did my own thing. That didn’t go over so well.” He didn’t dress in the latest styles, as the other kids did, settling instead for jeans and a white T-shirt most days. (Little did he know he was ahead of his time and that this simple outfit would become trendy. Or a throwback to one of the actors he admires, James Dean.)
One perk he did have was the use of an old car—a ’79 Mercury Cougar—to get back and forth to school, though he admits that it wasn’t exactly a chick magnet. “It was a wreck,” he tells Girlfriend magazine. “The windows didn’t open so I’d get carbon monoxide poisoning every day. Then every day the tires would be flat so I’d have to go to the gas station and pump them up. No girl wanted to get in that car!” (We’re lucky he’s just joking about the poisoning, right?)
Because he was different, Chad was often the target of bullies while he was growing up. He had two front teeth knocked out when he was seven or eight years old. An older kid at school decided he didn’t like Chad and decided to push him around . . . literally. Because of this bullying, and feeling like a misfit, Chad didn’t like school much. But he says it made him stronger and better able to handle the rough stuff in life.
But don’t despair! Chad’s high school days weren’t all dark. “I had a girlfriend through high school,” he assured YM. “I didn’t date much. I’m very much a monogamist. I like to just get comfortable in a relationship and know everything about each other.” (Sounds perfect!)
Chad often found the best way for him to meet girls was to meet people from other schools, where the chances of girls knowing him, his family, or his nerdy reputation were slim. He dated girls from schools fifteen or twenty minutes away from his own school because they didn’t know him as a “nerd” and got to know him for who he really was: a sweet, smart, handsome guy!
Despite not enjoying the social side of school as much as he might have, Chad did well in his classes and liked learning. He also loved playing football and he joined the school’s team. Through the team, he found a group of kids he could hang out with during the week, but he never quite connected with his fellow players enough to spend time with them outside of school. Once the football season was over, Chad usually went his own way and didn’t socialize with the athletes much. For this reason, playing on the school’s football team was no guarantee of popularity for Chad.
Chad also worked while he was in school. He had a part-time job as a janitor at Donut World, a local donut shop. He liked it because he got donuts for free and he thought the girls who also worked in the shop were cute.
Other than football, Chad wasn’t really active in many school activities. He did go to his prom in 1999, but he admits he didn’t really enjoy it. The music wasn’t to his taste and he didn’t like the food!
So what advice does Chad have for other kids who may not fit in at school, as he looks back on those years? Well, they say revenge is sweet. Chad told Guideposts for Teens, “It’s hard to see when you’re a kid in the middle of it, but the best thing you can do is find what interests you, concentrate on what’s important in your own life. Be different.” I think we can say this advice worked for him, can’t we?
A Lucky Break?
In addition to the family turmoil, Chad endured another kind of problem growing up, this one with his health. When he was born, he had a short mesentery. The mesentery is a membrane that connects your intestines to the inside of your abdomen. This congenital condition (something a person is born with) can result in severe abdominal discomfort.
During Chad’s sophomore year, his intestines twisted because of the strain on the mesentery and he had to have surgery. As a result of the surgery, he was in the hospital for months. He suffered from internal bleeding and couldn’t eat normally for a while.
Chad’s father was devoted to his family (probably why he’s such an idol in Chad’s eyes). He took an entire month and a half off from work to be with Chad in the hospital.
While Chad is the first person to admit the experience was scary—“I was terrified that I’d never get to go home. That everyone was just going to continue on with their lives and I’d just be in the hospital, sick,” he told Guideposts—at least two positive things came out of his hospital stay: lots of TV, and a career boost!
The first thing—the TV—was something Chad had always watched, but in the hospital he had lots of spare time. Watching television filled the long hours while he was in bed recuperating. One of his favorite shows was The Simpsons. He could escape from the pain and the loneliness of the hospital while he watched, and soon he started to dream about what it would be like to be in a movie or television show. He wanted to help distract other people from their problems just as he’d been distracted himself.
Sounds like Chad got into television for the best of reasons, right?
You’re probably thinking that his doctors and nurses were pretty lucky people, getting to hang with Chad 24/7 while he was in the hospital. And maybe that’s true, but Chad was also lucky to be hanging with them. He made a connection with one of his nurses, who also happened to be a model. She suggested Chad might want to try some modeling. (Does she have an excellent eye, or what?) She pointed out that modeling is sometimes a stepping stone to acting. Chad was intrigued enough by the idea to follow up on it when he got out of the hospital. He did some “little” modeling jobs in the Buffalo area at first. Then he went to a modeling convention in Orlando, Florida. There he met a man named Eddie Winkler, who encouraged him to move to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a full-time career in front of the camera.
Playing it smart, Chad waited until he had graduated from high school before trying to make it in L.A., though. Not that the waiting wasn’t frustrating, considering how Chad felt about his school experiences. There was lots of pressure in school to pick a college and decide what to do with his life. Like many high school students, he wasn’t ready to make those big life decisions yet. He talked to his dad about it and his dad tried to help him as much as he could. His advice to Chad was to have faith in himself and to get out there and follow his heart. He had faith in Chad.
Suddenly it was the summer of 1999, and Chad had a high school diploma in one hand, and some L.A. modeling contacts in the other. What would you do with those leads? Chad didn’t hesitate; he decided to give L.A. a go. His dad supported the decision and Chad made the move. He started acting lessons right away and took modeling jobs when he could to pay the bills. He didn’t want to be a model for the rest of his life, but he knew he had to pay the rent somehow.
So This Is Hollywood
Chad isn’t the first young actor to move to Los Angeles with more hope than experience. David Boreanaz (Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) tells the story of driving cross-country from Philadelphia to L.A. with his father—Philly-area weatherman Dave Roberts—to get settled in California. Everything he brought with him was in the back of the car. Most young actors tell reporters about first sharing an apartment with several other people. Many young actors have moved west with their moms and/or sibs in tow: Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina) and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) are just two. Chad’s stories of starting out in Hollywood have much in common with these tales. Though his father didn’t accompany him to California, Chad took odd jobs to pay the bills, had few possessions of his own, and relied on his dad for good advice—even if it was long distance—throughout the transition.
He tells TeenHollywood.com that while he was a struggling actor, he didn’t really think of himself that way. After all, not having a lot of money was nothing new to him. He took the money he received from relatives and friends for graduation and headed west. He felt strongly that he had to set some goals to work toward. He gave himself a year to make something of the gamble of moving west. He started out with roughly six hundred dollars in his pocket—enough for one month’s rent and a few meals at the time—and took a job answering phones for a limo company. He rented a tiny studio apartment and settled in. (In case you don’t know, a studio apartment is a one-room apartment, one room that serves as all the other rooms you would need—a kitchen, bedroom, and living room in one.)
“I had a dollar to my name every day living in (that) apartment,” Chad told TeenHollywood.com. Modeling gigs gave him extra money, but he was still living very frugally. He described his early days in L.A. to TeenHollywood.com: “I didn’t have a garbage can. That was great! . . . Every day I had a dollar and I’d go to Jack-in-the-Box and go, ‘Okay. Do I want protein, or a salad?’ And I’d buy a box of cereal every week with a cup of milk so I could have four breakfasts.”
Just when he thought it couldn’t get much harder, Chad was attacked shortly after he arrived in La-La-Land. He was at a fast food place and a guy took offense at his tattoo. What’s the tattoo? Chad’s initials are tattooed on his shoulder and for some reason this guy didn’t like it. He reached out and touched Chad’s shoulder. When Chad turned to look, to see who was tapping him, the guy’s fist connected with Chad’s nose. The guy never explained why he did what he did and Chad had to have his broken nose set.
Broken or not, we still think his nose is pretty cute, don’t we?
Don’t feel too sorry for Chad, because the one thing Chad admits is that he didn’t feel sorry for himself. He remembered his dad’s words—“Life goes on”—and he stuck with it. Soon he was modeling for some big names, like Tommy Hilfiger and Skechers.
Chad knew that modeling wasn’t what he wanted to do, though. He wanted to be more creative and participate more in what he was doing. He wanted to bring more of himself to a role and a picture—more than he could when he was modeling clothes. He knew if he could get into acting, he would have these opportunities.
Other TV Brothers Like Lucas and Nathan
J.R. and Bobby Ewing
Ray and Robert Barone
The brothers on Bonanza
Bo and Luke Duke
Joey Lawrence and his two younger brothers
The Brady boys—Greg, Peter, and Bobby
Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer in Two and a Half Men
Peter and Michael DeLuise
Excerpted from One Tree Hunks by Christine Roberts. Copyright © 2004 by Christine Roberts. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.