If you had to be stuck in an elevator with an actor, the name Eric Balfour might not be the first one that comes to mind. But it should be, because this is one interesting guy.
In a relatively short phone conversation, he spoke passionately about the need to conserve the world's oceans and sea life, then shifted to a critique of President Obama's administration, and somewhere in there discussed the inner-life of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And it's not just shallow musings either.
Maybe his upbringing in Los Angeles has something to do with it. "I grew up in a creative home," he recalls. "My mom was the original hippie." He and his family made visits to Esalen in Big Sur, which describes itself as "an alternative educational center devoted to the exploration of the world of unrealized human capacities that lies beyond the imagination."
Eric's family was not in show business, but, he says, "I had an innate desire to be an artist. When I was two, my mother showed me Prince's Purple Rain. Later I watched Staying Alive and Flashdance over and over, and memorized the entire making of Thriller." By 15, he was playing in a band and "running around the streets of Hollywood." That same year, he auditioned for and got a role on the kids' TV show Kids, Incorporated on which he sang and danced. Other alumni of that show include Fergie, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mario Lopez.
The seminal event in Eric Balfour's career was meeting acting coach John Homa. "He showed me how to fall in love with the storytelling of acting," says Balfour. "He helped me learn to look beyond the words and to look for the inner meaning in my character. By my early 20s, I knew it was what I wanted to do." Balfour's career is diverse and full: His movie roles include Secondhand Lions, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hell Ride and What Women Want. He currently stars on the Syfy Channel as Duke Crocker on Haven, a show based on a Stephen King novella. His past credits range from Six Feet Under to Valemont to Saving Grace to Monk. In addition, he is in a LA band called Born as Ghosts.
When not acting or singing, Balfour is developing a Broadway musical or a series that is "musically-based" for Fuse TV. "I am in love with singing and dancing," he says. He loves Glee and says his favorite film is the indie hit, Once. He is also a fan of the show So You Think You Can Dance. "It is so exciting to see a show that gives choreographers a platform, and you can't lie about someone's ability as a dancer."
Within minutes of talking to Eric, it becomes apparent that he may be of and from Los Angeles, but his head is elsewhere. He uses Fidel Castro and Ahmadinejad to illustrate his belief that no human is all evil or all good, and he has clearly read up on each man. He wants to travel to Africa and Middle East to explore age-old conflicts and culture-clashes. He also says, "I always wanted to sit down with Osama bin Laden and ask, 'What would make you stop what you're doing?'"
This is a man who embraces organizations and individuals that are trying to make positive change in the world. On this website, he lists four of his favorites. They include two conservation groups, the Surf Rider Foundation and Sea Shepherd because, he says, "I surf and spend a lot of time in the water. Oceans are being destroyed. It's wholly disgusting." He supports Falling Whistles, which campaigns for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and asks people to be whistleblowers for peace. He also supports the No H8 Campaign, in favor of gay marriage.
"I have no illusions that I'm an important opinion maker in the world. But I do believe that artists have a responsibility to shine a light on important issues," reflects Balfour. "I don't care if I leave a mark but at the end of my life, I want to look back and know that I did something worthwhile with it."
Eric Balfour points out that his parents' generation in the 1960s was more innocent than his own, as they "spread the idea of love and community." But, he says, "My generation is one that takes responsibility. Look at our financial crisis and the fall of Wall Street -- we must all take personal responsibility for buying things we couldn't afford." As he turns his attention to the pastor who threatened to burn the Koran, it is evident that Eric Balfour is a triple threat with his acting, singing and dancing talent. But he is also an actor with a lot to say... and someone definitely worth listening to.