Bunker Hill native to appear in movie '13 Going on 30'

April 11, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

Standing on the balcony of his apartment in the hills of Hollywood, actor Sam Ball said there's only one thing that makes him miss his home state of West Virginia: Los Angeles' smog.

A native of Bunker Hill, W.Va., Ball has a role in the upcoming Sony Pictures movie "13 Going on 30," which stars Jennifer Garner. Garner perhaps is best known as the star of the TV show "Alias."

On those particularly smoggy days in Los Angeles that happen once a month or so, Ball said he fondly remembers his days here. Otherwise, Ball is content exactly where he is.


"Unless Warner Brothers opens a studio in Martinsburg ..." he said during a recent phone interview.

Showing some skin

Anyone who watches the theatrical trailer for "13 Going on 30" will be able to spot Ball immediately.

He's the one showing all the skin.

"That's what I did best," Ball said, giving the first of many laughs. When Ball was a student at Shepherd College, he was known for his immodesty regarding nudity.

During shows of "Marat Sade," some female students would try to position themselves in a seat that best allowed them a view of his ... performance.

In the preview for his latest movie, Ball is the one who flings off his towel (his lower body cleverly shielded behind an umbrella) after emerging from a shower and, later, strips his shirt off to the tune of "Ice, Ice Baby."

He plays Alex, a professional hockey player for the New York Rangers. Like his role in "Pumpkin" with Christina Ricci, Ball said that in "13 Going on 30," he plays the main character's boyfriend.

Although the movie can be considered a romantic comedy, it is not in Ball's arms that Garner's character ends.

"Obviously I'm all wrong" for her, Ball said.

Garner plays a character who finds herself transformed overnight from an unpopular 13-year-old girl to a nearly 30-year-old successful magazine editor. Ball compared the film to "Big," starring Tom Hanks.

Although not his biggest role as far as screen time, Ball said "13 Going on 30" will reach a wider audience than any past roles. Along with "Pumpkin," he has appeared in "The Last Castle," "On the Q.T." and "Urbania."

He has made guest appearances on several TV shows, including "C.S.I.," "Dawson's Creek," "Law & Order" and "Sex and the City." Tonight, he will appear on "Cold Case."

Ball's first role was as a recurring character on the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live."

'Like a dream'

For "13 Going on 30," which opens in theaters on April 23, Ball spent a week filming in Los Angeles and a week filming in New York City. One highlight, he said, was staying in "film-style" accommodations on the upper west side of New York.

Some New York City streets were shut down for filming, including for a shot in Times Square.

"It's kind of like a dream," Ball said.

Compliments are due to the film's director, Gary Winick, and Garner, Ball said.

A West Virginia native as well, Garner was "sweet," "down-to-earth" and "like a girl you'd run into on the streets of Shepherdstown (W.Va.)," Ball said.

Ball gave Garner a copy of his band's CD. His band, The Good Song 3, plays Appalachia-inspired folk/bluegrass, he said.

"Me and Jennifer really hit it off," he said. "She really liked it (my CD) right away."

Given his band's genre and the fact that he and Garner come from the same state, Ball said playfully that they were "trying to spread a little West Virginia love." Garner grew up in Charleston, W.Va.

On a typical day, Ball said that he is awake by 1 p.m., or 11 a.m. if he has an appointment. Usually he has an audition, or he spends time writing songs or rehearsing with his band.

"In this town, you're either working or looking for work," he said.

Going from movie to movie is difficult and Ball said he sometimes worries over his inconsistent mode of income.

Ball's mother, Cindy Ball, plans to head to Los Angeles for the Wednesday premiere of the film. It's her first premiere and she's nervous, but not for the reasons one might think.

"That's the worst part. Flying out that far," she said.

Cindy Ball grew up in Martinsburg and moved to Bunker Hill when she was a child.

Hopes and dreams

Sam Ball, now 30, graduated from Musselman High School, where his inner actor remained unrevealed. His mother does not recall seeing any inklings that he might become an actor, other than the times her son would take his parents' video camera and tape short performances of his friends. Some were quite funny, Cindy Ball said.

It was not until his days at Shepherd College that Ball began appearing in plays. He graduated with a degree in chemistry.

After graduating he moved to New York, where he stayed with a friend and, like so many aspiring actors before him, waited tables.

Getting the job on "One Life to Live" ended his days as a waiter and offered some stability, Cindy Ball said.

Like any mother, Ball has hopes and worries for her children. Along with Sam, her son Michael lives in Los Angeles and is a member of The Good Song 3.

Her daughter Jessica, 24, works on a horse farm in Virginia.

One of Sam Ball's goals, to live in California, already has been realized.

Now, his mother hopes he will be cast in respectable roles and become a reputable actor. She, too, noticed that her son once again is playing the role of a jilted boyfriend in "13 Going on 30."

"I hope he's not getting typecast," she said.

Mostly, though, she hopes for his happiness.

"I hope this is a breakthrough for him," Cindy Ball said. "It's at the point where he needs it. I want the best for him."

And while Sam and Michael Ball have talked about their parents moving closer to them, it is not in the Hollywood hills that Cindy Ball can imagine living.

She said she is as happy here as Sam Ball is there.

"I don't think I could live there," she said. "It's not the same kind of mountains. It just doesn't feel like home."

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