Role of a Lifetime: Life Lessons with Peter Krause

NEW YORK (Reuters) – If you are looking for steady work, it is probably best not to go into show business. Unless you are Peter Krause, that is.

FILE PHOTO: Actor Peter Krause announces the nominations for the 72nd annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California December 11, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The 53-year-old Minnesota native has been a staple of U.S. TV screens for years, with roles in shows like “Sports Night,” “Six Feet Under,” “Parenthood,” and his current series “9-1-1,” which begins its spring season tonight on Fox.

For the latest in Reuters’ “Life Lessons” series, Krause talked with us about the heartland principles that have kept him working steadily in Hollywood for a couple of decades.

Q: Was an acting career always on your radar, even as a kid?

A: When I turned 16 in Roseville, Minnesota, it was expected that I would get a job, so I got one at the local movie theater.

It’s gone now, which is kind of sad. But I got to see every movie that came out, multiple times: Films like “The Mission,” “Chariots of Fire,” “On Golden Pond,” and “The Pope of Greenwich Village.”

So I got to really study those performances, even though I wasn’t thinking about being an actor at the time.

Q: Did your folks give you a hard time about your career choice?

A: My dad was a farm kid, always doing chores, who didn’t even have plumbing or electricity until he was 16. By the time he was 18, he was boots on the ground in Germany, as part of the army of occupation after World War Two. So the idea of acting was very foreign to him. We had a bit of a battle at first.

Q: What was the money situation like early on?

A: My parents didn’t have a lot of money. All of our family vacations were by car. So when I flew into New York City to go to New York University, I had never even been on a plane before.

I took the bus from LaGuardia Airport to Grand Central Station, and then walked from there down to NYU, which was about 40 blocks. Seeing the city like that was a shock to the system, since I had grown up in a small town in the middle of cornfields.

Q: Were those early acting years tough financially?

A: I had been bartending on Broadway in theaters, which is where I first met Aaron Sorkin, who was a bar manager at the Palace Theatre at the time, when they were playing “La Cage aux Folles.”

But one of my first shows out of college was with Carol Burnett, which was helpful with my parents, because they knew who she was. I finally got to take my dad out for lunch, and grabbed the check and signed the bill. He looked at me and said, “Well, this is different.”

Q: Which of your roles taught you the most?

A: All roles teach you something new. Different characters have different life rules, and some of those characters end up bleeding into me a little.

Nate Fisher from “Six Feet Under” was very difficult to play, because he was so at odds with himself all the time. That was a defining moment in my career. Working on that show was like a daily meditation on life and death.

Q: Have you thought about the future, and what retirement is going to look like for you?

A: I don’t plan on retiring. I’ll do this as long as I can. I still enjoy acting as much as I ever did. Right now on “9-1-1” I get to be a firefighter, which is basically my childhood dream come true.

Q: You have a kid, so what life lessons do you try to pass along to him?

A: He just turned 17, so I have taught him all sorts of things: How to ride a bike, drive a car. I was even his baseball coach for three years. What I have tried to impart to him the most is to figure out what makes him happy. For myself, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make my parents happy, and wanting to be a success in their eyes. That kind of messed me up. So I want to get my son to listen to his own compass.

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Editing by Beth Pinsker; Editing by David Gregorio

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