In 'Prison,' Allman might find his big break

Cox News Service
Monday, August 29, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas — This could be The Big Break for Marshall Allman, an adventurous kid from Austin who packed up a U-Haul and headed for Hollywood after graduating from high school a little more than three years ago.

His mother, Idanell, who helped him move after the family (dad James, an architect, and brother David, an Texas A&M veterinary student) packed his stuff, thinks her son was brave. Allman disagrees.

"It was blind and stupid," Allman said, cackling on the phone from Los Angeles. "I had no frame of reference to know what I was getting into. I'd never even done my own laundry."

Landing a supporting role in "Prison Break," a show that's generating big buzz, is the kind of break that can make a young actor's career. Allman will be in seven of the 13 episodes Fox has ordered so far, and if the show continues, so will he.

His best-known role until now is a supporting stint in this year's Bruce Willis movie "Hostage." He also had guest spots on "Without a Trace," "Boston Public," "Malcolm in the Middle" and "The Practice." He was in the '04 film "Little Black Book" "for about a second," he says, and the yet-to-be-released film "Dishdogz."

So is "Prison Break" the big break?

"People asked me that when I did 'Hostage,' but I don't know," Allman said. "It's going to pay the bills, and while it's happening, I'll appreciate it."

In high school, Allman focused on art and soccer. A possible professional soccer career ended with an injury, so he thought about going to art school in New York. But a future in art seemed iffy. On a lark, he went to a talent competition in Houston and met Steven Nash, who became his manager.

"It was one of those cheesy model-type things where we had to walk across a runway like a piece of meat," Allman said laughing.

After moving to Hollywood, Allman visited family friend and fellow Austinite Cary White, an award-winning production designer ("Lonesome Dove") who was working on the movie "Freaky Friday" at the time. White helped him get an audition for the movie, but the pressure got to him and disaster struck.

"I got in there and I could not talk," Allman said. "I literally couldn't speak, just nightmare-froze."

Voice and relaxation classes followed, and, finally, Allman began auditioning. He was in a Crazy Town music video ("That was big in Germany," he chuckled), and then made his TV debut in a Pepto Bismol commercial — "I was the one with diarrhea," Allman says proudly.

Allman describes Los Angeles as "crazy, cut-throat and competitive" and says he was lonely at first. But "Prison Break," which films in Chicago and Joliet, Ill., has provided a nice [ ... ].