'Better With You' is actor Jake Lacy's first big break

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- It's a truism that TV makes stars. Every fall TV season, fresh faces arrive on our TVs and some of those folks, who we've never heard of before, go on to have huge careers.

Of course, we can't predict who those standouts will be. I'm still wondering why Nan Woods, who played doughnut dolly Cherry on the first couple of seasons of "China Beach," quit acting and disappeared from TV.

So who knows what will become of Jake Lacy, the newcomer who stars in ABC's "Better With You" (8:30 p.m. Wednesdays on WTAE), but he makes a positive first impression.

"Better With You" is a cute sitcom with a strong cast, and Mr. Lacy's somewhat spacey Casey is part of the reason it's enjoyable. Casey is goofy but well-meaning. He's not the brightest bulb, but sometimes he displays more smarts than the other, supposedly more polished, characters.

The role was a huge get for Mr. Lacy, a 2008 graduate of North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C. He'd been working odd jobs in New York since graduation -- barback at a club, receptionist at a gym, waiter -- while going on auditions during the day. He was a bit player in a few episodes of "Guiding Light" before its cancellation and did a play at Hartford Repertory Theater in Connecticut.

Mr. Lacy grew up in Brandon, Vt., attending Otter Valley Union High School. He took vocational theater classes and high school acting roles began to edge out sports as his after-school activity of choice.

"It was a mix of playing hockey and soccer and baseball and slowly stopping that as those schedules began to conflict," he said during an ABC party. "I started choosing to be in plays rather than baseball."

And what he learned was that he could not view acting as a lark or "just a way to goof off" if he wanted to make it his career.

"It was the first time somebody said to me, 'You can really do this, but it takes more work than you think it does,' " he recalled. "They really did everything in their power to prepare me to go onto a conservatory where they had the same belief that it takes more work than you think to be an actor."

Growing up, as he said, "out in the woods," he was inspired in part by a local actor, Rusty DeWees, who invented a Vermonter character called The Logger.

"He was a local guy who was classically trained and he'd chosen to come back to Vermont," Mr. Lacy said. "He created something that was appropriate and told the story [of Vermont] I grew up with, and made a living doing it. And it had a lot of heart and it was great to have access to that in a small town."

Mr. Lacy said he's also a fan of well-known comedic actors -- Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Buster Keaton, Jim Carrey -- and studied their performances while growing up. And he credits his more seasoned "Better With You" co-stars with helping him along as he works in front of a sitcom crew and studio audience for the first time.

"They have been so warm and so welcoming and they're all vastly experienced compared to what I was coming in with, and they had no problem saying, 'Hey, how are you doing?' 'Do you get what they're talking about here?' " he said. "They could have left me hanging out in the wind but they didn't and that's huge."

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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