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Hanging with the actor kids at the Oakwood Apartments

Thursday, Jul 31 2003
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Photo by Jack Gould

Luke, Hallee and Caitlyn are hanging out by the pool at the Toluca Hills Oakwood apartment complex.

“TV for the most part, I’m just not interested in,” says Luke sprawled out on the cement. “I don’t like the way it works. I don’t like how fast it moves. Maybe I can name four shows on TV that are worthwhile: The Simpsons, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, South Park and one more actually — The Daily Show absolutely impresses the hell out of me.”

“But you’ve done some TV?”

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“Yeah, yeah. I actually have a TV movie on Sunday. It’s called A Painted House, I don’t really play a big part in it, but I am sort of there through the whole movie standing in the background. That’s generally the kind of parts I get. My job as an actor is, ‘Whose shoulder can I peek over today?’”

Luke Eberl doesn’t have “a look.” The Boulder, Colorado, native, who got his start playing frogs, princes and the like in a local “no big deal” children’s theater company called the Peanut Butter Players, is the type of kid you used to see around before the youth marketing craze took off. He wears a short, beaded necklace he got on location and almost always Tevas, no doubt a holdover from his Colorado roots. He carries a black moleskin pad with him at all times, is an “aspiring vegetarian,” plays keyboard and guitar, has practiced Bikram yoga and described the recent Matthew Barney show in New York as “David Lynch meets Jacques Tati.”

Though the child actor co-starred in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and recently appeared in the aforementioned TV movie, Luke doesn’t just act. He’s also a filmmaker. His short film Incest and a self-produced local-kids’ lifestyle show he did back in Colorado when he was 11 have won him a number of national awards. He produced and starred in a $125,000 thriller Searching for Haizmann, which will be in video stores this October. And, he wrote a feature-length screenplay called To the Raccoon, which has attracted a commitment from independent film director Julia Jay Pierrepont (Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel), who is currently making a “pass on it.”

(Photo by Jack Gould)

“When I saw Dogtown,” says the 16-year-old, blue-eyed auteur, “I thought, I want to be to film, to storytelling, what Jay Adams was to skating.”

Hallee (pronounced Holly) Hirsh has been booking jobs since she banked a Disney Cruise Line commercial when she was 3. Today, the photogenic, doll-eyed 15-year-old has her own house — a two-bedroom prewar with lemon trees in the yard — that her older brother, Greg, and a few college buddies are currently renting out. She also has a résumé a mile long, including 12 episodes of ER as Anthony Edwards’ daughter, a supporting part in the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romance You’ve Got Mail, a recurring role on Dharma & Greg, and a particularly tear-jerking performance on Judging Amy.

Caitlyn Folley, a 16-year-old Brittany Murphy look-alike, is relatively new around the Oakwood. But, thanks to her savvy outlook and “sick, twisted sense of humor,” the actress, who “lives for” her “fro-yo” and Smart Pop, is completely at home hanging with the Oakwood kids.

Tucked inside the Hollywood Hills, the massive 11,052-unit residence on Barham Boulevard is one of many Oakwoods in an international network of somewhat upscale, pre-furnished, short-term living communities. Spitting distance from the Warner Bros., Universal, NBC, Disney and Nickelodeon lots, the gated community caters to industry types, like the some 500 out-of-state child actors who shacked up here last pilot season — that gold-rush period of time between January and April when the studios, networks and productions companies cast their sample episodes of new TV shows looking for the next Jennifer Love Hewitt, Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) or Jessica Biel, all of whom once stayed here. Luke basically lives here year round.

Not long ago this place was packed with perfect-looking, Midwestern, bikini-clad 15-year-olds and their mothers gossiping and giving each other what Caitlyn calls “the fake Oakwood hug.” But pilot season is over and the scene is otherwise dead.

Caitlyn and Hallee are perched comfortably on chaise longues near Luke. Hallee, who also appeared in Incest, doesn’t live at the Oakwood anymore, but she hangs out here all the time. Her miniature Chihuahua puppy Dylan (“I love Bob Dylan”) is in her lap. He just farted.

Dy-lan!” the actress smiles, shrugging apologetically.

“I’ve found a niche in killing people,” she explains, her thick, dirty-blond mane hanging halfway down her slim, tank top–clad back. “I’ve killed three or four people in my career, bashing them over the head with a rock, with a gun, and not giving an insulin shot. But I play a saint in Manna From Heaven, so I swear I can be good.”

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