by Terri-Lynne Waldron
Will Estes is not the type of actor to wallow in past disappointments. When his critically acclaimed series, American Dreams, was teetering between cancellation and getting picked up, Estes sought greener pastures.
"They actually took a chance on me," he reveals about the creators of his new FOX drama, Reunion. "They hired me and we shot the pilot before I was officially released from American Dreams. It would have been hard to re-cast me or shoot around me had American Dreams been picked up."
Reunion chronicles the lives of six high school friends, from their 1986 graduation through the course of two decades years. Each episode represents one year in the life of the characters and the storylines unfold between flashback and present-day scenes until the season finale at the group's 20th high school reunion. The hook of the show is "whodunit" murder mystery that unravels throughout the season.
How difficult is it for the 27-year-old actor to play scenes out of sequence?
"I sort of feel like I am flying blind on it," says the L.A native who shoots Reunion in Vancouver. "A lot of times we jump into the 38-year-old character's scenes but we're kept in the dark as far as what the storylines are going to be like. It is a lot more work as an actor trying to feel like you know what you are doing on every level."
Estes relishes his role as Will Malloy, who straddles the line between loyalty and deception.
"He has got his share of turmoil," Estes says of his character, a jock planning to be the first in his family to go to college on an athletic scholarship. "Will comes from a working-class family and lives in a small town. The one little hang up he has is that he's completely in love with his best friend's girlfriend."
A child actor, Estes made his debut at 10 doing a guest spot on the soap Santa Barbara and at 11, was co-starring on The New Lassie. By the time he was in his 20s, he considered taking a leave from acting to make college a priority. But that was before an unexpected awakening overseas.
"I booked a job in the movie U-571 (co-starring Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi) in 2000. I went to Rome to shoot it and lived there for six months. It was an amazing experience and I fell in love with Italian culture," he says. "I realized that acting is something I would be hard-pressed to walk away from and come back to at a later date."
Now that he's recognized more, Estes takes advantage of his fame – but not for selfish reasons. He is more than willing to bear the responsibility of being tagged a role model.
"A cool sidebar to acquiring some celebrity is to be able to contribute to something you think is a good cause," he explains, himself a member of Heal The Bay, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California waters safe and healthy for people and marine life.
"If you get handed the opportunity that comes with success – you would be remiss to shrug it off and think of it as unimportant."
ESTES-TAMENT TO A FINE ACTOR
-Born October 21, 1978 (a Libra!)
-Weird coincidence: co-starred in U-571 with Tom Guiry, who played Lassie's owner/human pal in the 1994 film Lassie. Estes played a similar role in the TV series The New Lassie.
-Appeared in U-571 co-star Jon Bon Jovi's video for "It's My Life"
-Won on Celebrity Jeopardy!
-Has two dogs, Blondie and Joe, whom he rescued a couple of years ago.