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Actor Bruce Boxleitner reflects on growing up in area

Actor Bruce Boxleitner learned to ice skate and swim in Crystal Lake.

He’s kind of reminded of those days growing up in a small house surrounded by woods and open fields as he works on his latest project, Hallmark Channel’s popular original series “Cedar Cove.”

Boxleitner lived in Crystal Lake until age 10 when his family moved to Mount Prospect, where he graduated from high school. 

“It’s a good place to come from,” he said of Crystal Lake. “I think whether I liked it or not, I learned a certain ethic there. Just hometown people with a good work ethic. They were always very hard-working people, and I think I’ve carried that through the rest of my life.”

With numerous family members still in the area, Boxleitner still feels quite a connection to Chicago and its suburbs. 

He’s an alumnus of Chicago’s Goodman Theater (later renamed the Theatre School at DePaul University), where he starred in 1972 in the Broadway production of “Status Quo Vadis” with Ted Danson. 

He went on to star in popular film and television shows, such as “Tron,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” and “Babylon 5.”

In “Cedar Cove,” he plays Bob Beldon, the owner of the local inn. The show is based on author Debbie Macomber’s book series of the same name.

Although filmed in Vancouver, the show is set in the fictional small town of Cedar Cove, Wash., where Judge Olivia Lockhart, played by Andie MacDowell, is considered the community’s guiding light.

Recently renewed for a second season scheduled to air in 2014, the show is the Hallmark Channel’s first scripted series. It has succeeded, Boxleitner said, because of its relatable characters and simplicity.

“So much of what we have on television is not relatable unless you know any vampires or zombies or serial killers,” he said. “I love those things, too. You just get overloaded with it. [Cedar Cove] has sort of a retro feeling, television like it used to be. ... This is kind of a safe harbor for an hour.”

Boxleitner’s character, Beldon, and his wife, Peggy, played by Barbara Niven, will become a bigger part of the show in the upcoming season, he said.

“Everybody else is in turmoil in their private lives,” he said. “We have a little less drama going on, but there’ll be some good storylines coming up.”

He likes the small-town feel of the show, especially since the small-town America as he knew it growing up is kind of disappearing, he said.

The Crystal Lake he remembers was much more rural than it is today with “a lot of room to run,” he said.

His father worked as a milkman during the day and attended night school to become an accountant so his mother could stay home and raise the couple’s children. 

To this day, his parents still think he probably doesn’t work as much as he should, he said.

“They have no idea where this comes from,” he said of his acting inspirations. “They were very frightened when I first told them I wanted to be an actor. There was no reference for them, other than the stories you hear. ‘You’ll starve to death.’ I’m a very fortunate guy. I think luck has a lot to do with it, being in the right place at the right time.”

One of Boxleitner’s first big roles was in the televisions series “How the West Was Won” in 1978. 

He said he misses westerns, his “real home” when he started. 

“They don’t make a lot of those anymore, not good ones really,” he said.

He went on to star in numerous others, but is likely best known for “Tron,” “Babylon,” and his role as Lee Stetson in “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” opposite Kate Jackson.

He was among a group of “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” stars to gather recently for a 30-year reunion. An actual reunion television show likely won’t happen, he said.

“Like all of these things, it’s a time and a place ... to try to recapture it would be very difficult,” he said. “It would be impossible.”

Because of “Babylon” and “Tron,” Boxleitner often makes the rounds at Comic-Con conventions. 

And he’s also authored two books, “Frontier Earth,” and “Frontier Earth: Searcher.”

“I’m perfectly happy. I’m doing fine,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time. I’m considered a veteran actor now, so I’m fine with that. I don’t have to chase the bad guys down alleys anymore or leap over fences. Thank God, I wouldn’t make it. Halfway down the alley I’d be wheezing. 

“I’ve had a lot of fun, a lot of great memories, all good memories.”

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