Colin Hanks's character, Alex Whitman, is the kind of friend everyone should have. He's kind and thoughtful, mild mannered and polite. Best of all, he's loyal. Soon after the shooting incident at the Crashdown Cafe, Alex discovered that Liz and Maria had been keeping a secret from him. He asked Maria for the truth--and when she told him that their new friends were aliens, he stammered and stuttered with amazement--but vowed to keep the secret.
Even though Alex is the same age as his friends, he seems a little naive, especially when it comes to male-female relationships. Colin says this aspect of his character's personality is most like his own. "Being shy, especially with girls, that's definitely me," he says.
What else does he have in common with his character? "There's a lot of me in Alex. I wouldn't necassarily say I'm a really funny guy, but I do tend to have moments where I at least crack myself up--and I think Alex does that to himself a lot. In terms of being this really easy going sort of goofball, that's definitely me."
Chip Off the Old Block
The first question Colin is invariably asked when people meet him is the obvious: "Are you related to Tom Hanks?" The answer is yes--Colin is Tom's son. But when Colin was born on November 24, 1978, it was years before his father, a two-time Academy Award winning actor, made it big.
So much for the assumption that Colin was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. At the time of Colin's birth, Tom was a stuggling, unknown stage actor living in a cockroach infested apartment in a rough New York City neighborhood. He was twenty-two and barely had a cent to his name. Since work was so hard to find, Tom was collecting unemployment checks.
Struggling to make a name for himself and support his new wife and son, Tom landed a role on the ABC sitcom: Bosom Buddies in 1980. The show was about two grown men in the advertising industry who dress as women so that they can live in an affordable female-only dormitory. Two days after Colin's second birthday, Bosom Buddies debuted.
Who would have guessed that twenty-two years later, Colin would make his television debut? And even more ironic, Roswell was filmed on the same Paramount Studios lot where Bosom Buddies was made.
With his career taking off, Tom moved the family, which now included Colin's younger sister Elizabeth, to sunny Los Angeles. No more cockroaches and cold winter nights. Instead, Colin and Elizabeth enjoyed playing in their new backyard with lots of toys. Their dad had finally made it and was able to support the family the way he always wanted to. After two seasons, Bosom Buddies was cancelled. Tom moved onto films, like: Splash and Bachelor Party.
Sadly, life at home was falling apart. Colin's parents' marriage was breaking up, and no matter what they tried to do, they couldn't save it. Tom feared that his kids would have trouble growing up away from their father. But he vowed to be there for them whenever they needed him. And even more important, he vowed to make their childhoods as normal as possible. Soon after the divorce was final, Colin, his mother, and Elizabeth moved to Sacramento, California.
Growing Up Normal
What's "normal"? For Colin, it was life in suburbia. Sacramento is located on the opposite side of the state from Los Angeles. "Normal" was life away from the business and of Hollywood and movies and paparazzi. Colin could have easily grown up to be a spoiled brat like many kids whose parents are in show business. But because of his parents' commitment to raising him and sister with solid family and moral values, Colin is as "normal" a twenty-three-year-old as a parent could wish for.
Colin had household responsibilites like taking out the trash and keeping his room clean. From an early age, academics were always stressed. Colin and Elizabeth learned to develop their own interests and hobbies. That doesn't mean that Colin wasn't curious about what his father was up to. In fact, even though it might have been easy for Tom to snap his fingers and get Colin acting work, he didn't. Instead, he let Colin develop on his own. When he was a young boy, Colin explains, "I played with a lot of toys, that basically consisted of my acting."
But by the time he became a teenager, Colin had joined the drama club and got into junior high and high school productions. Tom Hanks saw his son's potential to be a chip off the old block. "I remember seeing him in shows in junior high school and I thought, 'Oh, he's got the chops,'" Tom Hanks told columnist Marilyn Beck.
In addition to his growing passion for acting, the six feet two inches Colin became an avid sports fan, a passion he shared with his mom, Samantha. "When the San Jose Sharks started playing in the NHL (National Hockey League) their first year, they played in San Francisco," Colin remembers. "My mom bought me a season package of ten games, and everyday of the game, she'd pick me up from school, and we'd drive to the Bay Area from Sacramento and watch the games. And then she'd drive back home while I was asleep or doing my homework,'' Colin explains, nodding with a grin, "I always opted for sleep because I never wanted to do my homework. That was one of the coolest things I ever did with her."
Colin continued to explore his interests throughout high school, but it was clear, acting was foremost on his mind. During breaks from school, he visited his father on the sets of movies like: Apollo 13 and That Thing You Do. In fact, Colin's first professional acting credit was in: That Thing You Do. But because education was a priority, Colin packed his suitcase and headed off to college right after graduating from high school.
Colin enrolled at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in the fall of 1996. "I majored in theater," he explians, noting that he didn't complete the required studies to earn a degree. But, he did hone his acting skills there. Colin was a featured performer in some of LMU's productions, including the comedy: Noises Off!
"I Gotta Take It"
It certainly didn't hurt to have the last name Hanks when Colin began looking for a professional agent. But as any producer or director will tell you, connections will only get you so far. If you don't have talent, you won't last long in Hollywood. However, as his dad recognized, Colin had the chops. After a series of auditions in 1998, Colin had a weekend he won't ever forget. One Friday afternoon, he got a call from his agent that he'd got the part of Cosmo, a quirky friend, in the teen romantic comedy: Whatever It Takes. That following Monday, just as Colin was about to report to work on the film, his agent called again. He'd been cast as Alex in Roswell!
"I got this opportunity and I said, 'All right, I gotta take it'. So here I am," Colin says humbly. He knows how competitive the industry can be, and he's grateful to have a shot at his own career. If it were all over tomorrow, Colin wouldn't worry. He's got other performing aspirations up his sleeve. "I would be a musician. I play the bass guitar, so if I couldn't do acting, then I'd probably try to take a crack at playing bass professionally." He adds wryly, "I don't know if I'd be nearly as successful."
The way things look, Colin won't have to sing for his supper anytime soon. As for dad, the worries he might have had when Colin was young seem to have dissipated. He's at ease knowing that Colin is following his footsteps, as long as it's what his son really wants to do. "I want all of my kids to develop some passion for what they do, so it doesn't seem like work when they do it," Tom told Marilyn Beck. "And that he's (Colin) been able to pursure that and actually land a gig--well, I'm ludicrously proud of him."
COLIN QUICK FACTS:
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Sagittarius
FAMILY: Dad: Tom Hanks, Mom: Samantha Lewes, Sister: Elizabeth, Half brothers: Chester and Truman
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: The Simpsons, Freaks and Geeks, Dennis Miller Live, and The Chris Rock Show
FAVORITE FOOD: "I'll eat anything. I'm not worried about my figure."
SPACE FANTASY: "If I lived like the Jetsons, my room would be a mess, and my robot maid would pick everything up. That would be fun."
HOBBIES: Plays bass guitar
UPCOMING PROJECTS: Indiana Jones? (Rumor)