HELLO AMERICA!—I must admit that when I first became aware of Eric Roberts in a short film in the 1970s, I thought he was menacing. He had the same kind of dark and even exciting edge as that of a Jack Palance or even Charles Lauton, actors I had met and respected so terribly. When finally meeting him, he did not disappoint me. He was clearly his own man, direct and didn’t attempt being who he was not.
When asking him about his early years growing up in Biloxi, Miss. he laughed and said: “Well, you know growing up in the South, you get close to the Earth which always remind you of who you are. My parents were actors and writers; that’s how they met, touring in a production of “George Washington Slept Here” for the armed forces. They later helped to build the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop. Later, they ran a children’s acting school in Decatur, Georgia while they were expecting my sister Julia.”
When Eric’s parents filed for divorce in 1971, he decided to live with his father Walter in Atlanta, estranged of course from his sisters Julia and Lisa. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “But this is how I felt at the time.” The father died of cancer in 1977, Lisa, Betty and Julia moved to Smyrna, Georgia after the divorce.
Eric admits that acting for him has been an escape. “I have always loved being on stage or in front of a camera,” he said. “It’s one of those rare moments when I feel alive and free. Every character I do, it’s as though I’m in a master’s class of life itself. Feeling emotions which at times clutter up my body and brain become easier to accept and understand. When watching some of the great actors in film or the theatre and able to tread in the path they are experiencing, that’s when I know they have or are experiencing their truth and it’s dynamically connectable with the audience. Man! That’s when it becomes magic time.”
When asking him why he has done just as many small films rather than the more publicized ones, Eric didn’t hold back one iota and responded with: “Listen, I’m an actor. Those who are picky and feel they should only get the so-called major titles many times end up back on soap operas. I love acting; I love the challenge of characters or stories to life. It’s like being a teacher or professor lecturing to people in a class room and it’s damn exciting. When you see that you’re getting through to them, it’s like hearing all the noise and fireworks during Fourth of July. Those people will go home filled with a new understanding of life, of themselves and that’s what a good book is about, that’s what education should be about and I love the challenge.”
Everyone knows that for a number of years he and sister, Julia, where estranged, but Eric made it quite clear that things are different now. “My sister and I have finally buried the hatch,” he said. “And it makes me very happy. It took a few years but I love my little sis, she is quite [the] gal and one of the best damn actresses around. And possibly if the right script comes along we might team up on the screen. Who knows, it could happen.”
Eric Roberts is clearly an actor, the idea of bringing a character to life and making people think about themselves and how they are evolving in this “confusing world” of constant upheavals is the kind of challenge he looks forward to — after all, Eric is an ACTOR.