Savage picks up 'Crumbs' role after college
By Luaine Lee
Knight Ridder News Service
By Luaine Lee
He may have been the "Wonder" boy for five years, but Fred Savage abdicated to attend Stanford for four years.
That's not normally what the hot, young star of a hit sitcom like "The Wonder Years," would do.
"College was huge only because I lived such a different life when I was a kid," says the now 29-year-old Savage.
"And it really taught me how to deal with people on a normal level and how to NOT be an actor, just be a normal guy. I was in a fraternity. I was a total idiot, and it was awesome!"
Savage graduated with an English degree and returned to show business, where he'd been navigating like a pro since he was a child. Absence hadn't made Hollywood forget the kid with the puckish grin.
"I loved studying, getting a degree, my classes and professors, but mostly I loved being a knucklehead for a few years," he said. "It served me well for what I wanted to do in the future. I knew I wanted to be in this business, wanted to be an actor, director or producer. If you want to be a director, producer, actor, you're essentially a storyteller and what better way to prepare yourself than to read and study and dissect and pore over the greatest stories written? ... It really helped me to look at a script and think analytically and critically and try and pull something out."
What's he's managed to pull out this time is "Crumbs," ABC's new comedy. Savage plays the younger of two brothers who returns to his hometown when his loony mother (Jane Curtin) is released from a psychiatric facility. He and his estranged brother must cope with the never-ending "issues" of his family.
In the meantime, Savage — who also starred in "Working," and co-starred in films like "Austin Powers: Goldmember," "The Rules of Attraction" and "Welcome to Mooseport" — has moved into directing.
"I really enjoy working with the actors when I'm directing," he nods. "When I was starting it was hard running the show. I knew what I wanted but (it was difficult) being tough. ... When I was first directing, I remember somebody said, 'Fred, do you want it yellow or green?' I said, 'Whatever you want.' He said, 'No, no, no. What is it?' 'Whatever you think.' They got (ticked) off. It was: 'Hey, man, YOU make the decision.'
"Being a nice guy as a director isn't the same thing as being a nice guy as an actor. You have to tell people what you want and be very explicit and focused and very direct. ... Of course you don't want to be a megalomaniac and running the set and making everyone's life miserable. But you have to be very definitive, clear and direct."
Savage was 6 when he started acting in his hometown Glencoe, a suburb of Chicago. He auditioned a couple of times at the community theater but never landed a part. "Then they called me for a Pac-Man vitamin commercial. My mom said — we didn't know anything about the business — 'You've been to two of these already and not got anything, maybe it's a waste of time.' I said, 'Oh, let's go, let's go.' ... Every job and every audition that followed, it was that same enthusiasm and excitement."
The family eventually moved to Los Angeles, and Fred's two siblings also became actors.
Savage has been married for a year and a half to his childhood friend, Jennifer Stone. And being married has lent him a new perspective, he says. "We don't have kids but we will, and I'm the head of the family, and I'm a provider. I want my kids and my wife to have all the things we did and my mom had. I think that's another reason why you want to have as many irons in the fire as possible."