In his youth, Ethan Embry (also known as Ethan Randall), grew from a talented child actor into a teen heartthrob. In films such as Dutch (his debut), Empire Records and Can’t Hardly Wait, he won over audiences and seemed to solidify his future in the industry – then he disappeared. It’s been a long journey but, finally, he’s finding his way back into the profession he seems to love so much.
Spiral Into Addiction
Growing up can be really difficult for child and teen stars which is evident by the fact that so many of them struggle. As Embry said: “Having started really young, you have to constantly reinvent — more so than if you start as an adult. There’s transitional phases and the hardest one is young adult to adult and actually showing that you’re capable of artistically competing with your peers. That transition was a hard one for me that I’ve been working on for a while.”
The now 37-year-old actor has plenty of experience to draw upon. Over the last five years he has been focusing on reestablishing his career and getting sober. He explains that you don’t have to be unprofessional to be in trouble.
According to Embry: “I was never late for work, I never couldn’t work, I’ve never been arrested — I don’t know how that never happened — but I have never directly harmed anyone else with my disease, but I’m sure that who it was turning me into might have made it harder to work with me. When you lose sight of how good you have it and you become greedy and want something different, you lose what’s already been given to you. I think that’s a common action in people that drink too much. You get really selfish. I couldn’t tell you if the timing of me making changes and working more is related, but it would be silly if I didn’t think that had something to do with it.”
As a father to 15-year-old Cogeian, he realized that he had to get his life back on track. He attributes this wake-up call to the realization of the fact that, in his opinion, “there’s only a few ways out of drugs and alcohol: You’re going to die or end up in jail and with either one of them, I’m not around for [him]. I had fooled myself for thinking I was there for him, but not as well as I could be.”
Second Chance on Netflix
This past May, Embry fans were thrilled by his return on the Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, and the role hits home for the actor who portrays recovering addict, Coyote Bergstein. The show, which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, has been so well received that it was renewed for a second season within three weeks of its debut.
“I guess you could say that I’ve done research on addiction for the 20 years before we shot Grace and Frankie,” Embry said. “One of the things I love about Grace and Frankie is that Jane wants it to touch on very important social issues. That’s incredibly important to her and it’s important to me, not only because of my personal history, but I lost a lot of friends. A lot of friends should still be here entertaining us. I know it’s hard to find the comedy in a situation like addiction, it’s a hard thing to turn into a joke, but the amount of people that die from drugs and alcoholism in this country every year is obscene.”
It’s great that he’s doing what he loves while playing a role on a show that does so much to inform the audience about social issues. It’s not all serious for Embry, though. He recently was able to fulfill a dream of his own by appearing on a very popular show.
Stint on The Walking Dead
Embry was able to, briefly, join the cast of The Walking Dead beginning with the premiere episode of Season 6 as Alexandria resident, Carter. His character was short-lived but impactful as he tried and spectacularly failed to take down Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as the leader of the town.
He told Buzzfeed: “It was the best! The best! The best! As a fan of the show, I got to do all of the things you would want to do: I tried to kill Rick and I got eaten by a zombie! I feel like I won a sweepstakes.”
The Future Looks Bright
With so much positivity in his life right now, the timing on this September’s 20th anniversary celebration of Empire Records must have given him a unique opportunity for reflection. In fact, this entire summer has been a bit of a flashback as he also starred in an Infiniti commercial that took aim at his 1998 portrayal of Rusty Griswold in the National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation movie.
With his upcoming film, The Devil’s Candy, premiering at the Toronto Film Festival it seems that Embry can’t be anything but grateful for how this year is going. As he enthused: “There are a few directors I’d freak out to work with, I’d love to produce, and I’d love to make my own projects, but I just want to continue to be invited and find avenues for making film, making television, putting together pictures with sound, you know? Right now, I’m very happy where everything is. It’s very rare that life, love, financial, [and] creative fulfillment fire at the same time. And I’ve got it all going right now.”
Hopefully, this is just the beginning of Ethan Embry’s triumphant return to the spotlight.