By Rich Henrich
Meet Will Balint. He’s a blue collar American male who works his ass off on an oil rig. He drinks more than most but working in the heat requires the need to be fully hydrated. Oh, and he likes to chase women…a lot. The thing about Will Balint is he’s not real, he’s a character portrayed by a man who’s as real as they come.
Meet Zach Rose. He’s a real deal and the actor who portrays Will Balint in Season Four of “Longmire”. One of the great things about the film industry being in New Mexico is the opportunity to randomly connect with actors turned tourists on their off days. Recently, I went to my favorite gastro pub, Fire & Hops in Santa Fe and had the pleasure of meeting a man from out of town. Upon asking him what he was in town for, it turned out he was acting in the series “Longmire”.
Zach has that face that seems familiar, the one where you look at it and say to yourself: “I think I know that guy from…that movie, or show or somewhere.” He noticed the sticker on my cell phone, a subtle piece of propaganda for the Durango Independent Film Festival. “I had a film play there,” he said. When I asked which one, he told me “Wanda the Wonderful”. This was a great little docudrama about a vaudeville sharp shooter. The tag line for the film caught my interest- she had four husbands but only shot one! It’s a well-done story about an intriguing character of an era gone by. The film starred Zach as well as Arianne Margot and James McMurtry, rocker and son of acclaimed novelist, Larry McMurtry.
Watch the “Wanda the Wonderful” trailer.
Zach is not your typical Hollywood metrosexual pretty boy actor. He’s a man that would never fit in to a pair of skinny jeans. He could have just as easily been a blue-collar oil rig worker who drank beer and chased women. But there is much more to Zach. He grew up in Tulsa, OK with huge jaw and awkward body he eventually grew into. He lived in the projects with his mom. They struggled but she gave him a lot of love. He spent his summers with his dad in Ventura, CA. His dad owned antique stores and never really knew the challenges Zach and his mom faced back at home. He grew up watching black and white movies and learned to sit, eat and appreciate the food on his plate. “When things were tough, it was never why me, it was about having strength in faith,” recalls Zach on some of the lessons learned from his mom.
He started writing plays and acting in elementary school but by middle school, he recognized his athletic abilities and pursued baseball and football. His focus on sports paid off, earning him a football scholarship to New Mexico Military Institute. The school boasts some notable alumni including Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Sam Donaldson of ABC News, hotelier Conrad Hilton, actor Owen Wilson and two Pulitzer Prize winners. It was while at NMMI that Zach knew what he really wanted to do. “My parents always knew. They were supportive. I knew I had to pursue the arts,” he says with a hint of confession.
“There was a lot of death in the family. A lot of questions I think about what else are we here to do. If we’re not living the life we want, we are already dead. I knew acting was my identity, it was part of my DNA,” the wisdom comes from a mind of reflection. Zach shared with me the moment he went to visit his dying mother and knowing how much pain she was in, was surprised to hear laughter coming from her hospital room. “She was watching Robin Williams on Broadway and really laughing. I realized then that acting was more powerful than I ever thought. Life is too short not to do something meaningful. As an actor, you can distract (people from pain) and inspire them. It’s important to do it well. What I mean by that is having integrity and recognizing the responsibility that comes with it.” He’s a man with conviction as he shares with me his deeper philosophy on the importance of growing spiritually and emotionally to have empathy over judgment. “No death is wasted, it becomes part of me, my experience and what I can draw from as an actor. Conformity is death. Security is death. 100 years is only 1200 months. There is not enough time to waste.”
He’s surprisingly stoic for a stand-up comedian. When I asked him what he draws on for his comedy, he says it’s mostly about his truthful take on the world, his frustrations, and the things that annoy him. “It’s a therapeutic expression for me but other people may call it a rant!” He laughs deeply. I ask what his routine is for his next gig. He smiles: “It’s the worst time in history to be a white guy!” We both share a chuckle. No doubt comedy serves society as the jester served the court but Zach infuses a lot of wisdom behind the existential crisis of being. We talk further about literature, films and a book we share in common, “The War of Art”.
Now that Zach Rose has grown into his jaw, he brings more than just range and physicality to the screen. He’s absorbent and malleable and can speak in an incredible Scottish accent. Mostly, it’s his life experience that has allowed him to understand characters and the characters we all play in our daily lives. Trained at the Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood, he says one of the most important things he learned was: “If you don’t have anything to offer this (acting), you shouldn’t be doing this!” More Zach at: Facebook.com/Zach.Rose. Zach is now represented by Mitchell Presley Talent Group in NM & CA.