You've probably seen Houston-born actor Eric Ladin, 37, in one or two of your favorite shows. His resume includes roles on critically acclaimed series such as Mad Men, The Killing and Boardwalk Empire. Ladin, who just shared screentime with Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood's gritty American Sniper, is back on the small screen with a role in The Brink from creators Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib, starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins, on HBO. We chatted with the actor about his Houston roots, the evolution of TV and his new show, which premiered last week and airs Sundays this summer.
Houstonia: Did you get your start with acting in high school?
Eric Ladin: Yeah, so I did some shows in high school then, when I turned 18, I packed up and headed out to Los Angeles. I was studying acting out there at USC and did some stage work before TV.
And speaking of TV, you've landed some amazing roles in TV's best shows, like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and The Killing. How have you gotten so lucky?
I always start with reading the story. I've been fortunate to run across some great writing, and I always look for something challenging. I always ask myself, "Does this scare me?" I identify with something that's challenging.
Was that the mindset behind joining the new HBO series The Brink?
Well, I loved the story right away and working with [director Jay Roach] has been very rewarding. Jay has allowed me to play with the role and find what works for me and the show. He's really let me find my way in the role and is so smart and quick.
In the show you play a fighter pilot alongside actor Pablo Schreiber. And in your last film role (American Sniper) you played a marine. Was it tough to transition into military roles?
What's great about these guys is that this is their job, like I have my job. They sit around and shoot the shit like the rest of us, and they have tasks like I do. This show in particular, for me, is about bringing justice to fighter pilots. We got to do flight simulators, see how the guys lived and have had some amazing technical advising, making sure everything, even our vernacular, is right.
Since you're the marathon man when it comes to TV acting, how have you seen it evolve recently from an actor's perspective?
TV is the new indie film. Actors and artists are getting more opportunities and free range to tell a story. And there are now some big names doing great projects on platforms like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Look at Kevin Spacey in House of Cards or Jack Black in our show or the series Transparent on Amazon. We're able to take risks and tell stories we couldn't have been able to tell just a few years ago.
What do you do when you head back to your hometown of Houston?
I have so many great memories with my high school buddies from Kinkaid who are still here, so I always see them. And I always end up eating poorly while I'm in Houston. I have to get a hot dog at James Coney Island, some Tex-Mex, crawfish and barbecue.