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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : The 'Dream On' kid grows up, and that fits Chris Demetral just fine

August 14, 1994|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Dream On's" Jeremy (Chris Demetral) is on the road to becoming more of a contemporary to dad Martin (Brian Benben) than a son.

In the five years that HBO's adult comedy has been on cable, Jeremy's grown from a twirp to a tempestuous young man.

Martin Tupper, a Manhattan book editor, seems to change lovers with each episode, and it looks as if his son may follow in his fast tracks. Last season, an episode focused on Jeremy losing his virginity. Now he's tackling Dad's work world. This week's show, "Those Who Can't, Edit," focuses on Jeremy's first novel. And, as is often the case with Jeremy and Martin, a father-son battle ensues.

For Demetral, 17, however, real life is decidedly different.

"My relationship with my dad is nothing like Jeremy's and his dad's," Demetral says from the San Fernando Valley apartment he shares with his father and manager, Pete Demetral. "We get along great. He's my best friend and always has been."

Demetral has lived with his father since his parents' divorce when he was 3. He moved with his father from their native Michigan to California 10 years ago. (He visits Mom in Michigan three or four times a year, he says.) In the sunny state, the younger Demetral sought stardom.

"I was always an entertainer, talking people's ears off, singing and dancing. I just knew I wanted to be an actor," Chris says.

At 10, he answered an open call for "Return of the Living Dead." "I was too young. I thought I'd be a good baby zombie or something," he deadpans. "But I got sent to an agent and got signed that day." Many guest roles followed. At 12, he got the role of Jeremy on "Dream On," a comedy that quickly got the critics' attention for mixing old TV clips with the very modern goings-on of Tupper and friends.

Demetral and Jeremy now have little in common. "When he first started out, Jeremy was almost exactly like me," Demetral recalls. "As he started to get more rebellious, he got less like me."

Even less like Demetral is Jack, the homeless teen he has been playing on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." He is looking forward to the series' fall return, though he doesn't know what's in store for his character.

"He's a tough character and a wonderful change for me," Demetral says. Previous roles on "The Wonder Years" and "Blossom" have been far more conventional.

Demetral, his father, and Ron Wolotzky, a co-executive producer, are quick to point out that during "Dream On's" sexual scenes--of which there are many--Jeremy is never around.

"It's quite an adult environment," Wolotzky concedes. "It's the nature of the show; it caters to adults. But we've always made sure from the beginning that Chris not be exposed to those scenes. Even in a scene where it was Jeremy's P.O.V. (point of view), we only shot Chris' reaction shot. He wasn't really looking at anything."

Wolotzky says working around adults has contributed to Demetral's maturity: "He's really matured and can carry a conversation like any other adult. He's very friendly and open and appreciates what's done for him. He's really a wonderful all-around person."

For Demetral, it's been "a tremendous learning experience" that he hopes to parlay into more work. Fortunately for him, "Dream On's" shooting schedule works to his advantage. "That gives me time to work on other projects."

He's already penned a couple of treatments and is at work on a script. Meanwhile, he finds time to play basketball, his favorite sport, while staying focused on his goal of becoming an actor-writer-producer.

"It's very involving," the teen says of acting. "You get into this mind set that there is always a possible audition, some wonderful part. You just have to be ready all the time."

"Dream On" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and repeats Saturday at 10 p.m. on HBO. "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" airs Sunday s at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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