Staff Photo: John Bohn Suwanee resident and child actor Noah Lomax, 10, has recently starred in a WalMart commerical and television shows the Army Wives, The Middle, The Walking Dead and Mad Love. Noah posses for a portrait with his family dog, Romeo.
SUWANEE — Like most 11-year-old boys these days, a Halloween costume and his recent birthday were top priorities for Noah Lomax.
Two weeks ago, he worked to convince his parents to visit the Terror on the Trail show at Sims Lake Park.
And he also decided to change his Halloween costume from Gene Simmons to a werewolf.
Lomax, a Suwanee resident, is also like other 11-year-olds in that he plays youth football. But his other extracurricular activity is more unique.
In the last four years, Lomax has watched his acting career grow exponentially. After he saw a poster signup at a mall to act on television shows that his older sister, Maddie, 12, first was interested in, Lomax has appeared in four TV shows and is set to be a supporting actor in two upcoming feature films.
Since first appearing in a Walmart commercial, Lomax has appeared in the Lifetime series the “Army Wives,” the ABC sitcom “The Middle,” the AMC drama “The Walking Dead” and the CBS series “Mad Love.” In the next several months, Lomax will debut on the silver screen alongside Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel in “Playing for Keeps,” and with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough in “Safe Haven.”
It’s been such a whirlwind adventure that his parents still struggle to grasp how fast things have changed.
When Lomax first began acting, his mother didn’t think his shy personality would work on set, but everyone soon realized acting was more natural to him than they figured.
“When we talk about him, he was the kid who was shy and quiet and didn’t really talk,” said his mother Michelle, who took a sabbatical from her job as a pediatric occupational therapist to be available for home schooling and auditions in Atlanta and Los Angeles. “To see him open up in front of the camera is kind of eye-opening for me.”
Lomax’ father, Nick, said he and his wife consider it important for their children to have activities, and acting fits in that category, like youth football.
Though the family has hired two agents, a manager and publicist, they resist the pull from members of “Noah’s team” to move to L.A.
“This is where we live,” said Nick, who works in sales, referring to the “normal” family atmosphere of the Suwanee community. “If he can continue to do it and wants to do it, great. If he decided tomorrow that he didn’t want to do it, that’d be OK, too.”
As roles have increased, Lomax joined the Screen Actors Guild and visited L.A. for a two-month “pilot season.” The family also shifted the school routine for Lomax, who attended Riverside Elementary until midway through third grade.
Since then, the family has tried home schooling and more recently Lomax has attended the Gwinnett County Online Campus, where he follows a curriculum and takes typical standardized tests like the CRCT. The benefit is the schedule, which is flexible, and more accommodating than the brick-and-mortar school requirements of less than 10 unexcused absences per year.
“It was getting hard because he was auditioning all the time and it was very disruptive,” Michelle said.
On set, each project that has children involved has a certified teacher that keeps up with assignments during the several-month stint when a movie is filmed, Michelle said.
Eventually, agents in L.A. encourage child actors like Lomax to earn a general education diploma so a teacher on set isn’t needed, which makes them more hireable, Michelle said.
But the Lomaxes have already decided that their children will continue on as traditional an education path as possible, because Michelle said memorable life moments like prom and homecoming can’t be duplicated.
“We’re having so much fun,” Michelle said. “But them being normal and experiencing normal things, that’s what we like about being here in Suwanee. When he’s on set he’s completely catered to. In L.A. it’s just a different vibe there.”
While Maddie also appeared in “The Walking Dead,” her acting career hasn’t taken off as much as her brother’s, even though she’s appeared in some commercials, including one for Chrysler. The North Gwinnett Middle student said it’s “weird” when friends at school ask if her brother is in movies, but she added, “I’m really proud to say that Noah is my brother.”
Michelle said Maddie is close in auditions, but the market for middle school girls is competitive because more of them take part in modeling and film roles than boys of the same age. While she’s in an “in-between stage,” Michelle said Maddie doesn’t look ethnic enough to get Spanish roles, but she’s also too European-looking.
As he’s developed as an actor, and been a part of a variety of projects, Lomax said he loved working on the set of “The Walking Dead” because he enjoyed watching the makeup artists work with blood and zombies.
And because he’s auditioned for about 40 movies, Lomax said his experience has helped him figure out what directors expect.
“I’m more mature on set,” he said. “Because when I first started, I did my first movie, I didn’t know what not to do, and what to do on set. Now I do.”
Thanks to a couple of acting coaches and Skype sessions — along with his mother coaching some of his lines — Lomax has learned how to mix emotion with improvisation.
“I just kind of figure out how to say it, and how I would really say it if I were talking to my parents,” he said.
As they have learned the acting business, Michelle said nothing is guaranteed, and like any other business, investments one day pay off.
In California, New York, Louisiana and New Mexico, a Coogan Account, also known as a blocked trust or trust account, is required, and employees must deposit 15 percent of a minor’s gross wages into the Coogan account within 15 days of employment. The Lomaxes have said the other income he earns will go toward college.
In “Playing for Keeps,” which has an advance screening on Nov. 27 at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, and opens in theaters on Dec. 7, Lomax plays alongside Butler, a former sports star who’s fallen on hard times when he starts coaching his son’s soccer team in an attempt to get his life together, according to imdb.com. In the trailer for “Playing for Keeps,” Lomax is shown prominently alongside Butler and Biel.
In “Safe Haven,” Lomax plays a kid who’s angry that his mother just passed away when his father, Duhamel, begins dating a new woman, Hough.
As Lomax’ acting career has blossomed, his parents have realized the importance of family and not being apart for more than two weeks at a time, even if that takes all four of them traveling to L.A., or visiting on weekends.
They also try to avoid the limelight and remain humble, and don’t often voluntarily broadcast auditions or roles to friends, Michelle said. The dilemma is the ongoing uncertainty of auditions and projects starting. If Lomax is cast on a TV show, for example, it all but guarantees a move to L.A. Tentative plans are about all the family can hope for, Michelle said.
But in the last four years, they’ve realized what’s most important.
“Our family is first,” Michelle said. “That’s what we’ve learned through this whole process, is we have to stay grounded and this is center. We’re the center, and we figure everything else out.”