Scott Grimes pilots his way through a man-child life


Some people know Scott Grimes from the old "Critters" movies or the new Seth MacFarlane shows, from cartoons to "The Orville." But the first thing I remember was "Frog." That was when PBS had terrific family films under the "WonderWorks" banner; in this one (and its sequel), Grimes had a talking frog. Now, more than three decades later, his career continues to be busy; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Some people might
argue that Scott Grimes' childhood ended the day he auditioned for
Broadway.

He was an
11-year-old kid who'd done some shows back home in Massachusetts.
Then came the “Nine” try-outs. “Three weeks later, we were in
the show,” Grimes said.

He's been working
ever since, so you could say he's had a shortened childhood ... or a
lengthened one.

Ever since, he's had
childlike fun. He's talked to frogs and a supercomputer; he's been
Robin Hood's pal and the farmboy who battled critters. He's voiced
Pinocchio, a midget assassin and Larry the Donut.

His main fun these
days involves piloting the spaceship in “The Orville,” which has
just started its second season on Fox. It's a dream job for anyone
who grew up on science fiction.

“I've always loved
it,” said Grimes, 47. “The first movie I saw was 'Forbidden
Planet.' My dad loved science fiction and he'd take me.”

And “Orville”
makes it easy to get into make-believe, with its realistic sets. “You
can turn 360 degrees and it all feels real to you.”

Others share that
feeling. “You're completely submerged into the world,” Mark
Jackson, who plays Isaac, said before the first season. “When I
first walked onto the set, I felt like a 10-year-old boy.”

That's the
approximate age when Grimes entered the world of grown-ups.

He was 9 when he did
a regional musical, 11 when he auditioned for Broadway director Tommy
Tune. “When I was leaving with my family, (director Tommy Tune)
said, 'Where are you staying?' We said the Sheridan and he said,
'You'd better get a place here, because you're in the show.'”

Grimes soon took
over the role of the boyhood friend of the central character.

At first, music
seemed to be his thing. At 14, he sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
on a Bob Hope special; at 15, he sang on a Carpenters record. “I
believe young Scott to have quite a future in music,” Richard
Carpenter wrote in the liner notes.

Actually, Grimes has
had a modest music career: He had an album when he was 18; a second
one, almost two decades later, included a song he co-wrote (“Sunset
Blvd”), which spent 10 weeks in the top 20 of Billboard's
adult-contemporary chart. He also has a band with Russell Crowe and
others.

But it was acting
that took off; like Ron Howard, this was a likable redhead who was a
natural for the camera. At 13, he starred with Mickey Rooney in the
TV film “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

His parents made the
move, first to New York City, then to Los Angeles, where his dad (a
business engineer) sometimes sang in folk clubs. “I have a real
good family,” Grimes said. “They taught me that if you have a
little bit of talent and do a lot of work, it will work out.”

Friendships helped.
When Corey Feldman was unavailable for “Frog” on PBS, Grimes
said, “he said, 'Hey, I have this buddy who can do it.'” It was a
clever talking-frog movie that even had a sequel.

Grimes has tended to
repeat work with a varied bunch of people. They've included:

-- Steven Spielberg.
First was “Band of Brothers,” with Grimes and Damian Lewis both
dying their red hair for the roles. Spielberg produced, “directed a
bunch of scenes,” and was on set a lot. “I love talking about
movies and so does he,” said Grimes, who later spent six seasons in
Spielberg's “ER.”

-- Crowe. Grimes has
been in three of his movies and they have that band, The Indoor
Garden Project.

-- Seth MacFarlane.
For 13 years, Grimes has done voices on his cartoons -- Steve in
“American Dad,” Kevin in “Family Guy,” other people or
doughnuts. “It's my kind of humor, my kind of writing.”

And yes, he always
knew MacFarlane wanted to do a space show. “He talked about it for
years.”

It finally happened
last season. MacFarlane captains The Orville, with Grimes as his
pilot and best friend. They fly between planets and zip between
drama, comedy and shoot-em-up adventures. They seem to have an
extended childhood.

-- “The Orville,”
Fox; second season began Sunday, Dec. 30, then moved to 9 p.m.
Thursdays