While Christmas is a special time of year for many people, Janesville native Owen Alabado remembers it as the launchpad for his acting career.
As a third-grader, Alabado was cast as Santa Claus in a school play. His interest in acting and performing took off from there, and he has since leveraged his natural talent into a lucrative profession.
Upon graduating from Parker High School in 1998, Alabado attended UW-Stevens Point and acquired his Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. After a stint in regional theater, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television.
Alabado’s first break in TV came when he landed the role of the accuser in the dramatic “Michael Jackson Trial Reenactments,” but he also has 10 years of stand-up comedy and improv experience (including a comedy performance at the Armory in Janesville earlier this year). He has since appeared on such shows as “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Shameless” and “This Is Us.”
In addition, he wrote and directed his own comedy web series, “Dudes,” which was loosely based on his personal life. The show has won numerous awards at the Austin Indie Film Fest, the Canadian Diversity Film Festival, the Accolade Global Film Competition and the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, to name a few.
One of eight siblings, Alabado’s brothers and sisters include Garrett, Linnea, Nikki, Angela, Alan, Bobby and Rickey. His parents are Gwen and Terry Riese and Jessie and Dinah Alabado.
1. As a kid in Janesville, did you ever dream you would one day wind up being a professional actor? I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a performer of some kind. I think when I was in the paper for the third-grade talent show at Wilson Elementary, it gave me the light bulb of the entertainment industry.
2. You were back in Janesville this year to headline a set of comedy shows at the Armory. Do you like doing stand-up, and what does the experience provide to you as a professional performer? I am mainly an actor and a writer. I do stand-up to feed the need of being on stage and to develop my writing. I also love making people laugh. Stand-up gives me a boost of confidence when it comes to comedic roles and auditions.
3. You are a trained martial artist and dancer. How do the two complement each other, and are they helpful in your career? It’s always nice to have special skills. I was training in martial arts as a kid, and I got into dance when I was a teenager. It helps with my overall health and fitness and gives me an edge when auditioning for roles that need martial arts or dance training.
4. How old were you when you discovered you loved attention, and what other actors have influenced you? It was during that elementary school Christmas play, playing Santa Claus. Being in Filipino dances, as well, while growing up gave me the performance bug, plus I always loved being in the middle of dance circles and having everyone watch me. I have had many actors influence me, and I have always admired Leonardo DiCaprio. After he played in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” I have always respected his ability as an actor. I also think Johnny Depp’s versatility is admirable. Oh, and Robin Williams. He was my favorite growing up.
5. You’ve appeared on one of my favorite TV shows, “Shameless.” Describe the experience. It was amazing working with that cast. I was a fan of the show, so going in to read for it was nerve-wracking. William H. Macy is incredible and super nice. I got to sit next to him—our chairs were right next to each other. And I got an amazing compliment from Emmy Rossum. She was in the room when I auditioned and said I was by far the most professional and polished person that came into the room.
6. At the grocery store, what item always goes in your cart whether you need it or not? Cheese. Duh.
7. Do you have any superstitions? Not really. Well, I guess the only one I kind of have is one from high school. My brother always said white lighters are bad luck, so when I see one, I automatically think about bad luck.
8. What is the single greatest snack food in the history of mankind? Defend your answer. Cheese and pepperoni wrapped in a tortilla and then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Try it and you will understand.
9. If you could co-star with any actor/actress currently working, who would he or she be? It would be my friend Regina King, who just won an Oscar. I knew her from one of my jobs. She came there a lot to eat and became a friend. I have dreamed someday we would work together on something. I just adore her.
10. You are the oldest of eight kids. What do most people not understand about coming from a family that large? I think what most people don’t understand is that, when you are the only child, the world doesn’t revolve around you. And it’s crowded.
11. Thus far, in your professional acting career, what would you say has been the most gratifying role you’ve played? It’s going to sound weird, but playing the accuser in the “Michael Jackson Trial Reenactments.” It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. And to this day, it is still the most challenging acting I have ever done.
12. People would be surprised to find out: That I love country music.
13. Name a popular actor/singer/artist who doesn’t appeal to you. I am going to have to say Kevin Hart. Not in every role he plays, but in a lot of roles. He is a bit much for me.
14. What is your astrological sign? Do you believe in astrology? I am an Aquarius, and yes, I do believe there is some truth to it. Download the app “The Pattern.” You put in your birth date, time of birth and city of birth. It is amazing how accurate it is.
15. Aside from acting, what do you consider your favorite hobbies? I love karaoke, throwing theme parties, oh ... and I play dodgeball every week.
16. What do you consider your essential tools for performing? Knowing who you are as an actor, as well as what the industry sees you as. Keep your tools sharp. If you say you can do martial arts, you better be able to do it. Take classes, teach classes, watch videos. Know your craft.
17. Without looking in a dictionary, what would you guess a “glabella” to be? Glabella is an Italian drag queen. (The glabella is actually the space on your forehead between your eyebrows).
18. What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done? I have cliff jumped in the Philippines and swam with whale sharks. (They aren’t that dangerous. Super nice creatures).
19. Do you have any advice for young thespians just trying to get into the business? Just because you were the lead in high school and college means jack in the real world. Work hard and know yourself.
20. What are the best and worst things about being a professional actor? The best thing is being able to do what you love and getting paid to do it. I love transforming into another person and giving the audience a glimpse into someone else’s world. The worst things? How much time do we have? It’s inconsistent. Long hours on set. Repeating yourself over and over. Traffic. A lot of not-nice people in Hollywood.
Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.