Edmund Moore: A "Where Are They Now" Of Sorts About a Former Child Actor

posted Mar 5, 2014, 8:33 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 15, 2014, 3:49 PM ]
My friend Edmund Moore is a former child actor who starred in the 1992-1997 ABC-TV comedy series A Family of Four with Jenifer Lewis, Mario Van Peebles and a then-unknown Anthony Mackie as the Bennetts, a black family that moves into a predominantly white New York City suburb. Lewis and Peebles played his parents while Mackie played his younger brother.

The series immediately drew comparisons to The Cosby Show, which had ended its landmark run the previous spring. But outside of being about a middle-class nuclear black family, the similarities pretty much ended there as storylines were far less idealistic and comparatively more controversial than the earlier series -- particularly with a young star who was rumored to be gay as the series progressed.

The network, the producers and Edmund's parents wanted to handle the situation very delicately. After all, with a popular show on a top-rated network, there was a lot at stake. It was ultimately decided to follow Edmund's lead as he came to terms on his own in his own way in his own time. So Edmund's rumored sexuality never made their way into storylines -- until the final season in a well-regarded scene with fellow child star Danny Pintauro from Who's the Boss?, which also ended its lengthy run in the spring of 1992. Pintauro guest-starred as an older neighbor home from college on whom Edmund's character confessed to having a crush.

A Family of Four was also praised for showing a neighborhood peaceably integrating without significant "white flight", but was also heavily criticized by a vocal minority that found such a development to be unrealistic. Still, the series, which premiered to moderate ratings success, rose to the Top 20 in its third season, the Top 10 in its fourth season and #4 for its fifth and final season.

In the series finale, which aired in May of 1997, the Bennett family spent their last days together before sending Edmund's character off to college -- an event that mirrored Edmund's own transition into college that fall.

Moore was born in Illinois but moved with his mother to live with her mother outside Los Angeles in January of 1992 after his parents divorced. Almost immediately, Edmund was discovered by a casting assistant while he and his mother were strolling the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. She liked his natural look and average build. She asked if he would read and test for a role in a new TV series that they had been having a hard time casting. Though Edmund had appeared in a few school plays, he had no formal acting experience. Since Edmund had exhibited no aspirations for an acting career, his parents agreed to let him audition if for no other reason than it would make a great story to tell friends and family.

After the series ended, Moore returned to Illinois for college and attended Northwestern University, where he majored in Radio/TV/Film with a minor in media studies. He received an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in July of 1997 for the final season of the show but wasn't able to attend the ceremony that September on account of having class the next morning. His entire dorm gathered into the main lounge to watch the telecast, but he lost to John Lithgow for 3rd Rock from the Sun.

"It's alright. It's harder to sleep with an Emmy than it is with my Golden Globe," he joked. (The Globe he won in January of that year was actually still on display at his mother and grandmother's house.)

After graduation, he enrolled in New York's The New School, where he earned a Master's Degree in Media Studies. Tiring of the cold, he returned to Los Angeles in 2003. Though he still had enough Family of Four money to live alone, he opted instead to enter into a roommate situation with two friends from Northwestern, who had an opening in their Westwood apartment. They lived together for six years before a job transfer and an engagement split up the happy trio. Edmund then moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, where he remains to this day -- leading a quiet existence well outside the industry despite his proximity to it.

Edmund Moore lives well below his means. He doesn't drive a car. He doesn't own much furniture. And he doesn't frequent any of the LA hotspots where most celebrities go to be seen. From the looks of him, you'd never guess that he'd ever starred in one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s.

When he does spend money, it's to travel for a few days every month. So far this year he's gone to see his father in Illinois and to meet up with some friends in London. And plans are already in place for a trip to Boston in May to see about a guy to New Jersey in August for a friend's wedding.

Now he just needs to figure out where to go this month.

The Paley Center for Media, in conjunction with the new Net90s network (which will begin airing A Family of Four in June), recently announced plans to commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the series in September with a cast reunion, a screening of the pilot episode and a panel discussion of the show's impact and legacy.

I used to live in the same building as Edmund Moore, who starred in the series as Jared Bennett. We've kept intermittent contact since I moved out a year or so ago and knowing how much of a fan I was (and still am) of the show, I reached out to him for a brief Q& A and he was more than gracious to oblige.

Since so many of the panel questions will be about the show, my line of questioning is focused on his life as it relates to the show:

1. How excited are you about this event?

It's funny to me that every four or five years or so, there's a renewed interest in the series. The first was after I graduated college and there was talk about my returning to television in some capacity. But I went to graduate school instead. A few years later TV One secured the rights to the series and promoted the launch rather heavily. Then the 20th anniversary of the series approached and the Paley Center tried to put this together then but Anthony wound up not being available and the rest of us saw no reason to do it if we all couldn't be there. Fortunately, Anthony's film career is finally on the decline so we can all finally get together and do this.

2. How long has it been since you've seen everyone in the cast?

A while. Anthony and I keep in touch but mostly by text since his film commitments keep him rather busy. In case it wasn't obvious, that part about Anthony's film career in the previous question was a joke. I last saw Jenifer when she did a one-woman show at the Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood about four years ago. And I run into Mario at the most random events -- plays, film festivals or even just at a restaurant I'm always surprised he knows enough about to patronize.

3. Do you ever catch the show in reruns?

I try not to. A Family of Four was a great experience for me but it sucked to be on network television sitcom while going through such an awkward phase of life like puberty. Fortunately, a lot of what I was going through was reflected in the scripts, so in a strange way I didn't feel like I was going through it all alone. Still, I always hated seeing myself on television because I never looked or sounded the way I thought I did as I was acting out a scene, performing a piece of comedy or saying a particular line.

4. You've kept a pretty low profile since the show went off the air. Was that intentional? 

In a sense, yes. I didn't come to California to pursue an acting career. That just happened and I'm eternally grateful for it. But once the show ended, I wanted to go to college and then get a Master's degree. Going back to television or doing movies was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. And by the time I returned to Los Angeles, the show had been off the air for six years and I was already considered a washed-up former child star -- which I always found funny. 

5. Do you have any aspirations now of getting back into television or doing movies? 

Not at all. The industry is so different than when the show was on in the 1990s. Now, if you don't get certain ratings for your premiere, the cancellation clock is already ticking. The broadcast networks seemed to exercise more patience twenty years ago than they do now. I don't want to bust my ass coming up with a great concept, having great scripts written and producing a pilot to either not get picked up for no apparent reason or to get picked up but then pulled after two episodes. And what I'd bring to the table wouldn't necessarily lend itself well to the type of content being generated by cable -- although I'd love to do a guest spot or two on Hot in Cleveland on TV Land.

6. Why don't you do more guest spots then? 

I don't have an agent anymore because I haven't done anything since the show went off the air. So when I get a call for a guest appearance, it's usually to play myself or the character and I'm not interested in doing either. 

7. How are you treated by the friends you've made since the show went off the air? 

I was very careful about how I made friends in college. Most people on campus knew the show and that I had been on it. I made some errors in judgment early on but the people I gravitated to the most were those who didn't give a shit either way. My best friend from college hadn't even heard of the show and barely knew who I was. So my closest friends just see A Family of Four as something I had done a thousand years ago. 

8. What's your life like right now? 

Very low-key and I love it. People see me on the street and some of them recognize me but don't say anything while others just nod and whisper. I'm actually quite approachable when it's done respectfully -- but not when I'm eating (laughs). I'm also very active on twitter and often get questions from afar about the show. I don't shy away from that part of my life so I'm happy to answer those questions. Other than that, I go grocery shopping. I walk a lot. I go to readings. I go to comedy clubs. I love LA theatre, so I see a lot of plays. And I occasionally take on temp work that falls randomly into my lap. 

It's a good life. And I'm very fortunate to lead it. 

Details on the reunion panel and pilot screening are still being finalized, but there will be a full write-up on it in September.