Shawn Stevens (born April 5, 1958) is an American film, television and stage actor, singer and entrepreneur.
Life Overview Shawn Stevens was born Shawn Perry Stevens in Morristown, New Jersey April 5, 1958, the first child of Gary Kieth Stevens, a carpenter, pilot and construction contractor, and Gladys Edna (Chich) Smith, a homemaker. Stevens lived in Morristown, New Jersey until his family moved to Burbank, Ca. in 1969. Stevens is the oldest of 3 children. He has a sister Jodi Beth (Blatz. b/1961) and brother Gary Kieth Jr. (b/1963). Stevens was raised Church of Christ and converted to Mormonism at age 19. Stevens married Kaylene McLaws in 1984 and together they have 4 children, Tauren-Ashlee (Tucker b. 1985), Shawn Kory (b. 1989), Perry Christian (b. 1981) and Vince Kayson (b. 1993). Shawn has 1 grandson and is expecting a 2nd in the summer of 2014. Shawn is uncle to actor/musician Kelly Blatz (One Square Mile, Aaron Stone, April Showers, and Prom Night).
Jersey Boy Stevens’ parents were very young and still in high school (Bernard’s High, Bernardsville, New Jersey) when he was born and Shawn attended his parents’ high school graduation. In his infancy Shawn spent a great deal of time with his maternal and paternal grandparents and extended family who all lived in the vicinity. From his paternal grandmother (Stevens’ father’s father passed away in 1961 when Shawn was 3 years old) and great-grandparents, Stevens developed a deep abiding faith in God. Stevens’ great grandfather, Eddie Grindley, was a Church of Christ minister who founded several Christian summer camps (Camp Shiloh in Mendham, N.J and Camp Hunt near Hubbardsville, New York) primarily for inner-city youth from the boroughs of New York City. The singer/actor Pat Boone was a close family friend during these years. Through his maternal grandparents, who were Methodists, Stevens was schooled in music and the arts. Stevens’ grandmother Alberta May (Trebilcock), or Nana, was a piano player while his grandfather Vince William Smith (a U.S. Navy Veteran of WW2) was a Wall Street banker, violinist and painter. Stevens’ first exposure to live theater came when his Nana would take him to the nearby Papermill Playhouse in Milburn New Jersey to see children’s plays and musicals, his favorite being The Frog Prince. Stevens also remembers seeing Raymond Burr in a live stage production and his first trip into New York City to see the world premiere of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964 starring Debbie Reynolds who Shawn would later meet while in high school) at Radio City Music Hall with The Rockettes opening the show.
As a child, Stevens remembers his first performance opportunity came in kindergarten (at South Street Elementary in Morristown New Jersey) as a clown in a school variety show. Shawn noticed that the older boy who was playing the “strong man” had left his bar bells on the stage. Not wanting to see the show ruined by the prop being left on stage, Shawn rushed out to center stage and retrieved the fake weights with one hand. To his amazement the audience broke out in laughter and applause. Stevens bowed and ‘a ham was born’. Shawn knew that this was what he wanted to do with his life. Stevens would follow up his New Jersey elementary school acting “career” with portrayals of The Mighty Oak in The Oak and the Reed and as a Dwarf in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Stevens also developed a love for singing and would enjoy singing holiday and patriotic songs when prompted by his teachers. Stevens remembers singing America the Beautiful in front of his 2nd grade class. When funding was cut for music instruction in school Shawn jumped in and prevailed on the teacher to let him take over. Shawn remembers teaching his classmates songs like Born Free and Edelweiss. Stevens would also conduct acapella hymn singing (Church of Christ does not have instrumental music) in his church congregation as early as 10 years of age.
The Wonder Full Years When Stevens was 10 his family moved to California so his father could pursue career opportunities. Stevens felt that this was fortuitous for his desire to have a performing career as well. (Shawn remembers his parting words to his friends when driving away from his home as “watch for me on TV!”). Within months of landing in Burbank, California (home of Walt Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. and NBC Studios) Shawn had hand written a letter to Walt Disney introducing himself, and with the help of a friend’s father (who worked at Disney) delivered the letter to Mr. Disney’s office. Although this didn’t lead to a personal meeting with Mr. Disney, the letter was passed off to the head of the Disney children’s casting office and a meeting was granted. He was told to get some more experience and to be in every local and school production possible and that the time would come. That’s all Shawn needed to hear. That summer, Shawn’s elementary school, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, was making a film as a summer activity of The Wizard of Oz. Shawn wanted to play his favorite character, The Cowardly Lion, and the audition criteria was whoever made the best costume got the part. Shawn and his mom set about dyeing pajamas, attaching fake nails to socks and fashioning yarn to make a wig and mane. Their efforts paid off and Shawn was in his glory that summer hamming it up in front of the 16 mm camera. Through another family friend that year Shawn heard about a local theater, The Glendale Centre Theatre, in neighboring Glendale, California that was casting a production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Shawn auditioned and was cast as The Spirit of Christmas Past, a role generally played by an adult. This production played to a sold out house of 350+ patrons nightly for 6 weeks. Shawn had found a home! Stevens remained the resident young male actor at GCT through his adolescence and teens, oft times taking the bus to and from the theater, performing in every play possible including The Remarkable Mister Pennypacker, I Remember Mama, Up the Down Staircase, Turn ‘Round West Wind and the annual A Christmas Carol, maturing into multiple roles (Shawn’s wife and children would later appear in the production making it a family affair. Life would come full circle!) Stevens was simultaneously highly involved in his junior high school (John Muir Jr. High) and senior high school (Burbank Senior High, class of 1976) drama, choral music and, even, band departments (Shawn took up playing the bass drum) where he sang barbershop, men’s, mixed, and madrigal music (Shawn was awarded Best Male Vocalist for 4 straight years), played in marching band, and played leads in such plays as Barefoot in the Park, Bad Seed, David and Lisa (directed by classmate Tim Burton) and, his personal favorite, portrayed Prof. Harold Hill in Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. Other high school musical highlights including Shawn receiving a vocal scholarship to Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, where Shawn won the coveted opportunity to sing the school Alma Mater at commencement, and participation in the Southern California and All-State Honor Choirs, the latter directed by Roger Wagner (of the world famous Roger Wagner Choral). Not one to waste time during his summer breaks from high school, Shawn participated in the Teenage Drama Workshop at California State, Northridge where he would study musical theater. Another alum from this program, who would become a great friend, is the award winning actress Mare Winningham (Amber Waves, Hatfields and McCoys).
Adversity and Opportunity At age 13 Shawn had back to back removal of his tonsils and appendix and, when his mother offered him a treat for having endured going under the knife, asked if he could have voice lessons. He began taking voice lessons, with an emphasis on musical theater. (He would later study with Seth Riggs, Nolan Van Way and David Craig.) As a side note, Shawn had several illnesses during his teen years and was forced to miss school for extended periods of time. Although he did keep up with his schoolwork from home he also used this time to watch the many classic movies that used to play on television during the daytime and evenings. He would develop a deep respect and admiration for the great actors from the golden age of film and would put many of the great scenes and monologues to memory. Henry Fonda, Orson Welles and Jimmy Stewart were among his favorites and he was overjoyed at the prospects of meeting and perhaps working with them someday, which he was able to accomplish. He even met Debbie Reynolds by whom he had been mesmerized as a youth while watching her onscreen at the Radio City Music Hall in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Again, his young life had come full circle!
On The Road During his senior year of high school, Stevens auditioned for and was invited to join the singing group “The Young Americans’ where he participated in their summer repertory group “Torchlite Musical Theater” in Petosky, Michigan. During his first summer away from home he played a variety of roles in the musicals George M., Oklahoma, GODSPEL, and The Music Man. Stevens was also invited to tour with the group in a 9 month, 165 city, 48 state tour which he says was one of the most grueling experiences of his life.
(Shawn’s only post high school educational experience came in the form of a semester at Los Angeles Valley College where he participated in the musical Fiddler on the Roof in the role of Perchik.)
After landing back in L.A., Stevens auditioned for a role which was to change the course of his life. A family friend knew of a director who was looking for a young man to play the lead in a low-budget independent feature. The film was called “No Place to Ride” and was a thriller about 3 friends being terrorized by a crazed killer while dirt biking in the southeastern badlands of Utah. Shawn was offered the part and was off to Utah (Kanab) for 6 weeks. It was while in Utah that Stevens had the opportunity to witness Mormonism at work and where he developed the desire to investigate the LDS Church further when he returned to Los Angeles. This led to his becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in 1977 at age 19. (About this time Shawn also signed with personal manager, Bonnie Larson (also LDS), who would groom Shawn and place him with noted theatrical agent Arnold Soloway at The Artist Group.) Shortly after becoming a Mormon and setting out on his new faith journey Shawn was offered the leading role of Jimmy in the LDS landmark musical “Saturday’s Warrior”, with which he toured the western United States for the next year.
Big Break Stevens’ big break into television came in the summer of 1978 when he landed the leading role in the William Blinn (Brian’s Song, Roots, 8 is Enough, Starsky and Hutch) penned and produced series “The Mackenzies of Paradise Cove” for ABC. The series was filmed entirely in Hawaii and co-starred Clu Gulager (The Virginian), Sean Marshall (Pete’s Dragon) and Keith Coogan (Adventures in Babysitting). Although the series only lasted 1 season, it was enough to catapult Stevens into the spotlight. Shawn was quickly picked up by the teen magazines and in 1980, at the non-teen age of 20, was named the most popular “Teen Idol” by Laufer Publications (Tiger Beat, Teen Beat) due to the tremendous amount of fan mail he received at their offices. Shawn would continue to dominate the covers and pages of teen targeted publications through the mid 80’s.
Career Stevens continued to work on television and in films (see filmography) continuously throughout the early and mid ’80’s. He appeared in a wide variety of genres and acting styles including soaps, sit-coms, afterschool specials, episodic, and mini-series’ and would appear as himself on game shows, talk shows, and telethons. Shawn would eagerly use his “celebrity” status to participate in charitable causes such as being a national spokesman for the March of Dimes’ Walk America and also serving as host for 4 years of the Miss Teen USA Pageant. One of Shawn’s most rewarding experiences was when he was invited to be the guest of honor and perform at a fundraiser for the Morristown N.J. chapter of Birthright. He was surprised to have the date proclaimed “Shawn Stevens Day” in his hometown and to be given the Key to the City by the mayor. In addition to acting, Shawn was simultaneously pursuing a singing career. He was featured as a singer in numerous live events across the country and on television. It was while singing on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow (Shawn’s character sang live 2 to 3 times a week) that Shawn caught the attention of iconic record producer Michael Lloyd (Shaun Cassidy, Debbie Boone, Leif Garrett, and The Osmonds) and was signed to a recording contract with Warner/Curb Records. Not one to rest on his laurels, Shawn always had the dream of giving back and starting a children’s theater like the one that had inspired him as a child. In 1983 Shawn turned the dream into a reality when he founded The Children’s Theater of Los Angeles with the assistance of Magic Castle founder Milt Larsen. Mr. Larsen also owned the historic Variety Arts Theater in downtown Los Angeles which became the home of the CTLA. The inaugural production of the CTLA was an original musical called I Will which followed a group of children into the Tudorian world of William Shakespeare. Although a critical success, the show lost money and the support of backers and Shawn was forced to reconsider his foray into the world of children’s theater. The theater company closed after it’s second production, Big Time.
Focus on Family In 1983 Shawn met the love of his life, Kaylene McLaws, (a fashion designer within the garment industry) at church and after a year’s courtship they were married June 16, 1984. Together they have 4 children (Tauren-Ashlee b. 1985 (married Dylan Tucker 2012), Shawn Kory Albert b. 1989 (married Mallory Peterson 2011), Perry Christian Garack b. 1991, Vince Kayson Clark b. 1993) and have one grandchild, Shawn Jeremiah, and are expecting a second, Jack Dylan, in the summer of 2014. In 1987 Shawn participated in an LDS missionary film called “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan” and, after searching his conscience, decided to voluntarily put his professional career on the shelf so as to allow the film to serve its purpose worldwide. Shawn also took this as an opportunity to pursue other interests and focus on his family and personal growth.
Second Act In 2012, after 25 years offstage, Shawn was given the opportunity to audition for the legendary 50’s and 60’s doo wop group The Diamonds (Li’l Darlin’, The Stroll) and was invited to perform with them during a 4 month engagement headlining the world famous Palm Springs Follies. During this experience Shawn remembered how much he missed and loved performing and, with the love and support of his family, decided to set about returning to his passion. Shawn will be appearing in the T.C. Christensen penned and directed feature The Cokeville Miracle to be filmed the summer of 2014 and has several other projects in development including reality show concepts and theatrical productions.
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