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An actor's life

Young Grizzly on Monday's episode of ABC's October Road may look familiar to Douglas County residents.

He's played by a former Poplar resident, 13-year-old Bridger Zadina. The young teen moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to pursue an acting career. Now, he's looking forward to people back home seeing him in his first role in a national TV show when the episode "Stand by Me Alone" airs at 9 p.m. Monday.

He plays a young Grizzly during a flashback scene.

The teen also models for Target, starred in two short films and has been hired for a role as Disney Movie Surfer in a mini-show that features kids going behind the scenes of movies on the Disney Channel.

He hasn't had a filming assignment for that role yet, but expects to start shooting soon.

Bridger moved to Los Angeles with his mother, Marcy Zadina, in September 2006 at the tender age of 12. He's been auditioning ever since. He figures he's now auditioned for more than 100 parts since the move.

It's hard work to attempt an acting career, said Bridger and Marcy on the phone after a recent audition for NBC's "Medium."

The move was a hard decision for the family, too. But it was such a good opportunity that his mom and Bridger packed their bags and moved to California while his dad, Simon, and brother, Carson, stayed in Poplar where Simon owns a llama farm. At age 11, Bridger was named a national champion llama exhibitor.

"It's fun, really a good experience," Bridger said of his acting career.

Leaving family behind was difficult for both the teen and his mom, but it was such a great opportunity for Bridger, Marcy said she couldn't imagine telling him to wait until he was 18 to start an acting career.

He needs the support both financially and emotionally, which he wouldn't get if he did this on his own in the future, she said.

While moving to Hollywood to start an acting career is hard work, it's a priceless experience for Bridger. Even if he doesn't make it big, he has vastly improved his acting skills and his confidence, Marcy said.

"He's already done more job interviews than most people will do in a lifetime," she said. "They're harder too. He will have that for the rest of his life. ... Anything he chooses to do from here forward he can do."

Bridger got his start at the Duluth Playhouse at age 10 when he performed in productions of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Oliver Twist" and "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day."

It all started when his mom picked up an audition packet for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Bridger thought it sounded like fun and ended up loving the work and meeting many friends at the Playhouse, he said.

The trip to Hollywood started about two years ago with a radio announcement for ProScout, a talent agency that was holding a scouting event in Minneapolis.

Zadina auditioned at the event in front of agents and casting directors with 300 other kids. He got a call back from an agent and did a boot camp with a casting director who told his parents he should head to California and start auditioning. When that opportunity to go presented itself, he was glad to try it, he said.

The experience has been financially draining, the jobs Bridger has gotten in the past 18 months haven't begun to cover their expenses. Ninty-five percent of people who attempt an acting career don't make big money right away, Marcy said.

She said she thought they'd be in Los Angeles for a month before Bridger got a job that started paying the rent, but that takes time. The reality is that if a person gets something significant in the first three years he or she is an overnight success, she said.

Bridger does about one audition per week, but it depends on what casting directors are looking for and how many call-backs he gets. Some weeks he'll have no auditions, others he'll have six, she said.

Bridger memorizes lines and creates a character for each audition because the director isn't just looking for the character; they're looking for what an actor can bring to the role, Marcy said.

"You always just have to hope," Bridger said. "When you go in to audition for a casting director, you're not just auditioning for that show. You're auditioning for every role your casting director is going to cast."

It's truly a job, when he's not auditioning, he's working with a coach to improve his skills. Acting has been Bridger's choice. He can quit anytime and return home, Marcy said.

Even with all the work he does on the acting front, Bridger is still working to get his education. Until December, was still attending school at Northwestern Middle School by e-mail with his teachers. This winter the teen returned to Poplar and finished fall semester at the school before transferring to a school in California.

Students who do that really need to apply themselves to learning. The teachers worked hard to help him through the transition, he said.

Bridger plans to continue his education no matter what his acting career brings, he said.

"I will go to college to learn about writing and producing," he said.

The move was a learning experience for Marcy too. Los Angeles is huge, which makes driving in the city difficult, and every audition is unique, she said.

"It's an amazing experience to be here -- not something on my radar when I had kids," she said. "I'm glad we're doing it."

Bridger hopes his friends in the Twin Ports watch his scene in October Road.

He enjoys sharing his work with friends and family -- especially taking his friends to Target to show them his pictures. They look at the wall, look at him and say "I recognize that face," he said.

His younger brother, Carson, is always excited to see the Target photos hanging in the store. His dad, Simon, also gets excited when he hears what Bridger is doing, Bridger said.

"I miss him and family. It's hard sometimes, but I know they're supporting me no matter what I do," he said. "I'm always thinking about them and hope there's a lot of friends from the Playhouse who try it too because a lot of them could make it out here."

Simon keeps tabs on Bridger's e-mail account to see what's going on with him. And both he and Carson keep in touch with Bridger by cell phone, Simon said.

"It's hard because we miss him a lot and wonder how he's doing," he said.

Both are proud of Bridger. They've noticed a change in him since the move. When watching movies with Bridger he now points out what actors do right or wrong; he looks at it from so many different angles, Simon said.

"He's been destined to be an actor from a very young age," he said. "I'm proud of him; this kid is just incredible."

Call Anna Kurth at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail