Supporting Roles

    “Supporting Roles,” New Era, Sept. 1991, 21

    Supporting Roles

    Stardom, or a lack of it, doesn’t affect the way this family builds great relationships.

    “Thanks, kid—if we need you, we’ll call.”

    That’s a polite way for a casting director to say, “See ya around sometime.” How often do you think you could hear that and not get discouraged? The Potter kids, three boys and three girls who try out nearly every day for commercials, television, and movies, hear it all the time, but it doesn’t seem to faze them.

    Granted, there is always the hope of landing a part which enables them to hang out with famous stars, travel to exotic places, be seen by millions, earn over $500 a day, and help their careers skyrocket, but those opportunities don’t come along every day. For each part they get, there can be up to 100 they try out for and miss.

    Not that they’re unsuccessful. You’ve seen the Potters on everything from ads for Beenie Weenies to Fruit of the Loom. They’ve modeled in magazines all over the world, and they’ve had parts in a number of TV shows and feature films.

    How Embarrassing!

    But the recognition they get from the parts they do land doesn’t seem to faze them either. In fact, if you ran into Triskin Potter, 15, at school, you’d never know she was on television at least five times a day, starring in a GTE ad. She won’t even talk about it, because, frankly, “It’s embarrassing having people know you’re on TV,” she says. “Then they’ll go home and watch you and talk about you.”

    “Besides, sometimes the kids at school tease you,” adds Tarrish, 13. “They’ll say, ‘I saw you on that show. It was really dumb.’”

    So why do they do it? Why do they rush home from school every day, curl their hair, change their clothes into “something more colorful” then race through the Los Angeles traffic with their mother to audition after audition?

    “I dunno. It’s fun,” says Tuhk, the curly-haired 11-year-old.

    But it goes deeper than that. When you’re around the Potters, you notice that show business is a tie that keeps them close—and at one point, kept them alive.

    It all started—where else?—at church. It was fun for the family to get together and sing, and they began doing it at stake and ward functions in Oregon. Then one day a man asked them how much they’d charge to perform elsewhere. They said $25, and their professional careers were born.

    Some families do jigsaw puzzles together; some ride bikes. The Potters performed—at fairs, shopping malls, civic events, that type of thing. It was fun, gave them some confidence, and kept them close. But suddenly, through a frightening turn of events, their performing became a life-or-death matter.

    A Near Tragedy

    One day when Tuhk was modeling shorts, his mother noticed some terrible bruises on his legs, and they wouldn’t heal. A doctor’s checkup revealed the worst—he had leukemia. It would take a bone marrow transplant and over $100,000 to save his life.

    Now the Potters were performing, without Tuhk, to earn money to help their little brother live. What they made didn’t go far, but the publicity they received did. Their ward, stake, and community rallied around them. Soon an offer came from the City of Hope, a medical facility in California, to donate Tuhk’s transplant and treatment.

    The family sped south. All the Potter kids tested positive to be bone marrow donors, but Tarrish was selected. They went through weeks of fasting and prayer while their brother went through surgery and chemotherapy, part of it in strict isolation. That was especially hard on Tuhk.

    They were also involved in weeks of missionary work. There was another family at the same hospital, up from Mexico, whose son Victor was in the same condition as Tuhk. Victor didn’t make it, but the family was able to bear the tragedy with the comfort of the gospel the Potters had shared with them. They were baptized, and when they returned to Mexico, the father eventually became a bishop.

    The Potter family was elated when they found that Tuhk’s leukemia had finally gone into remission. When you meet him now, telling funny riddles or playing with Ninja Turtles, you’d never guess he’d once come so close to death.

    But his malady had brought the whole family to the Los Angeles area, and since they were in one of the media capitals of the world, the kids decided to try their hand at something they were already good at—acting, modeling, performing. It worked. One by one, they began landing roles.

    Sibling Rivalry?

    In a family with six children, you’d think there would be enough sibling rivalry without having to deal with the envy of one person getting more roles than another. But the Potters are amazingly supportive of each other. They love to watch the videotapes of each other’s commercials and parts, and they watch them over and over again, exclaiming, “Look—there he/she is! That’s a great one!”

    Sometimes, two of the Potters are up for the same part. A while back Triskin landed a part as a veejay on Kidsongs, a Disney show that both she and Tarrish had tried out for. But there aren’t hard feelings. “You don’t get jealous; you just get sad,” says Tarrish. “It’s not your sister’s fault she got the part. You don’t hate her for it. It’s better that one of us gets it than none of us.”

    The Potters’ living room walls are covered with framed pictures and mementos of all the work they’ve done. They will explain them to you if you ask, but they won’t automatically steer you toward their own. “That’s Tylee, that’s Talon, oh, and there’s me,” Trek will tell you, as he points to various frames on the walls.

    Trek, 12, gets the most parts at the moment, but you’d never know it from his attitude. The money the kids make goes into a common fund. And after you subtract tithing, taxes, transportation, agents’ fees, managers’ fees, Screen Actors Guild fees, money for acting/voice/dance lessons, plus a myriad of other expenses, their profession might not seem as lucrative as you thought.

    But hopefully it will be enough to pay for their missions and their college educations. The Potters take advanced classes now, and while a few of them would like to stay in show business, they realize college is important. “I’d like to be a vet or do something with animals,” says Triskin. “You can’t really depend on acting.”

    But for now, they can depend on acting for something to talk about around the dinner table and for something to encourage each other about. Oh, and it does provide for a Ninja Turtle or two, a Game Boy, roller skates—a few little luxuries like that.

    The Potters go to their auditions stoically, usually toting backpacks full of homework to do while they wait for their names to be called. If Trek doesn’t get a part today, maybe Tuhk will. And maybe they’ll start filming that movie tomorrow that Triskin has been promised a lead in. It’s only a matter of time before one of them hears those magic words, “Thanks, kid—you’re exactly what we need. We’ll see you at the studio on Saturday.” For the Potters, one person’s victory is everybody’s victory.

    Photography by John Luke and courtesy of family

    The Potters’ schedules are almost always hectic. Janine, the mother, usually picks the kids up at school, then drives them to auditions or shoots all over the Los Angeles area. Since they frequently go in different directions, the family really values the time they spend together.

    Although the Potters are often in front of cameras and can be seen on television and in magazines, they still like to do the things other kids do. Triskin and Tarrish like hanging out with their friends and their mom, and Trek likes to do artwork when he gets the chance.