By Steve DiCarlo > Senior > Creative Writing > Hofstra University, Photos By Bjoern Kommerell
Theatre is considered to be one of the riskiest majors in college due to the limited number of jobs available to students after graduation. Austin Stowell was accepted into Central Connecticut State University to enter into their business law program, but decided to make the controversial decision to attend the University of Connecticut instead as a theatre major. “You have to do what fulfills you physically and emotionally. I love the storytelling aspect of acting. Every actor has to ask themselves ‘What’re you really in this for?’ and if the answer isn’t ‘To tell a story and affect an audience,’ the road is going to be bumpy.”
Stowell admits that his journey as a theatre major was not an easy one. “What’s a social life? Being a theatre major takes up a huge amount of time. It’s not only being in a classroom… it’s rehearsing and prepping for the next show.” However, when he graduated from UConn in 2007, Stowell’s first move was finding a job at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard to help pay for student loans. He soon became manager of the restaurant, and was becoming comfortable in his life until a friend pointed out that his dream of making movies would never come true in Martha’s Vineyard. Stowell then made the fateful trip to Los Angeles in order to finally pursue his passion for acting.
Between paying for rent, headshots, and trying to network around Hollywood, Stowell has to find part-time jobs busing tables. “I was playing the role of the struggling actor,” said Stowell, “and it was tough.” Stowell remembers a trip to the supermarket, which required him to empty out his change jar just to buy what little groceries he could afford. Directors wouldn’t hire him without experience, and Stowell couldn’t help but realize that he’d never get any experience until someone took a chance on him. His big break finally arrived when "Secret Girlfriend," a show on Comedy Central, cast him as a frat-jerk named Chad. The role helped Stowell land a recurring character position as Jesse on ABC Family’s series, “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” “I can’t thank them enough for giving me that first shot. With this business you just need lightning to strike a little bit for you. Someone has to be willing to take a shot with you, and ‘Secret Life’ was one of those shots for me.”
Stowell’s steady climb up the Hollywood ladder has led to several websites putting him on the same heartthrob level as superstars like Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson. Now becoming a more established actor, Stowell has a number of upcoming projects that he is excited for. Later this year, his film Dolphin’s Tale , which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, will hit theaters. The film is a survival story about a shy young boy who befriends a dolphin. Stowell plays the boy’s older cousin, a champion swimmer who entered the Marines after being unable to afford the training needed to enter into the Olympics. “Getting to represent the military was very emotional because I have friends that are overseas right now. To have the opportunity to represent these guys and show my respect for them and what they do on a daily basis for us was a real pleasure for me.” While on duty, Stowell’s character becomes paralyzed and introverted, which forces him to seek help from Freeman, who plays a doctor. “I got to work very closely with Mr. Freeman, and he has such power and grace both as an actor and as a man,” said Stowell. “To say it was a dream come true would fall short of what it was like to work with such talented and iconic people.”