You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of hometown actor Eric Ladin.
The Houston native attended The Kinkaid School before heading west to study at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts. The move has paid off with impressive roles in several hits, from HBO’s Generation Kill, Big Love and Boardwalk Empire to AMC's The Killing and Mad Men (as January Jones' brother), and big screen films including Annabelle and American Sniper.
Ladin currently stars in the supporting role of country-fried Lieutenant Glenn "Jammer" Taylor in the HBO series, The Brink. The dark storyline with a comedic twist centers on a skirt-chasing, booze-swilling secretary of state (Tim Robbins), who, with the help of a sleezy foreign service worker (Jack Black), tries to stave off World War III in Pakistan.
Although the 37-year old actor currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Katy and two small children, he makes his way back to the Lone Star State as often as he can. He was most recently in Houston for interviews and a quick overnight stay with his parents, who still live in town, before flying off to Dallas for another day of press.
CultureMap caught up Ladin about his new HBO show, what we can expect next and his Houston ties.
CultureMap: Tell us about your latest project, The Brink.
Eric Ladin: I love it! It’s a satirical dark comedy based on the brink of a fictitious World War III. It’s different than any show on TV because of how we deal the heavy subject while doing a comedy. It reminds me of (iconic TV show) M*A*S*H.
(My character) Jammer is a guy who wanted to be a pilot, but for whatever reason wasn’t selected. So now he’s a wingman for ace Navy fighter pilot, Zeke "Z-Pak" Callahan (Pablo Schreiber). I modeled Jammer after some people I knew here in Texas. He’s a funny, fun-loving guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and tells it like it is. I love his “no filter” attitude of saying exactly what he’s thinking.
CM: What was it like working with stars like Tim Robbins, Jack Black and Pablo Schreiber?
EL: I knew it was going to be a challenge to do a comedy based on a topic like this, but knowing that HBO was behind it with the cast of Jack, Tim and Pablo already attached… it’s hard not to trust that it’s going to be well done when you see that lineup. It is about being up to the standards of these guys. It’s phenomenal to watch guys like that work.
CM: Have you always wanted to be an actor?
EL: When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer. I used to go to the courthouses (in Houston) and watch the litigators. I’d sit for weeks at murder trials just to watch them work. Then I figured out what I liked most was their performances. When I started getting onstage at Kinkaid, I fell in love with acting. I chose to go to USC for college to continue studying theater.
CM: Do you make back to Houston often?
EL: I make it back as often as I can for holidays and a few other times a year. I have two young kids and because my wife Katy is also from Houston, when we visit family Houston is our only spot. I love coming back and seeing how much the city grows. It's important for my boys to know their family. I miss going to Astros games. My family are longtime season ticket holders. I was fortunate to be able to throw out the first pitch at last night’s game.
CM: What are some of your favorite Houston hangout spots?
EL: I still have relationships with my high school friends and tend to go out with buddies for dinner when I'm home. I also miss Tex-Mex, barbecue and JCI (James Coney Island)! I just went to Liberty Kitchen. And I went to Arturo Boada with my family. It was phenomenal.
CM: What can we expect to see next from you?
EL: I’m working on a video game as a performance capture and a voice maker. I can’t say much about it right now, but it comes out in a year or two.
CM: Acting is a tough career. How have you been able to make a living?
EL: Carefully (laughs). It is hard. I was fortunate to have transitioned from the TV commercial world, which is where I started. I had to learn quickly how to manage an income that's not always consistent. That’s the nature of our business. But I’m very determined and that's how I’ve persevered. As an actor, you don’t have a boss. You have to have a lot of discipline.
New episodes of "The Brink" air Sundays on HBO.