Mukilteo boy starred as Ralphie

Andy Walken played the central character in Fox's reboot of a holiday classic
By Brandon Gustafson | Jan 03, 2018
Courtesy of: Fox and Andy Walken Oh fudge! Andy Walken in the iconic tire repair scene during ‘A Christmas Story Live!’ (Photo courtesy of Fox and Andy Walken).

If you were one of the 4.52 million viewers who watched “A Christmas Story Live!” on Fox on Dec. 17, you likely noticed a young actor with the screen name of Andy Walken starring as Ralphie Parker.

What you may not know, however, is that Andy, 11, is actually from Mukilteo and lived here until this past September when his family relocated to Los Angeles.

“I was born and raised in Mukilteo,” Andy said. “When I first started acting in 2015, my mom and I would spend three months in California every winter looking for new acting jobs, but Mukilteo was always my home.

“The first school I went to was Harbour Pointe Montessori near the library. I started there when I was 3 and went for two years. From kindergarten to fourth grade I went to Soundview School in Lynnwood, and since then I’ve been homeschooled because it’s more flexible when I’m working.”

Andy started his acting career about three years ago in Everett and has been hooked ever since.

“When I was 8 I signed up for the Village Theater camp in Everett,” Andy said. “I enjoyed it so much I told my mom I wanted to do it all the time, on TV and in movies. I love the feeling I get when I’m performing.”

Andy said that a few of his heroes in acting are Neil Patrick Harris because, “there isn’t anything he can’t do” and Chris Pratt who is, “another local boy from Washington.”

With the help of his agent and overcoming a lot of travel, Andy was able to audition for the role of Ralphie and, ultimately, won the job.

“I had to fly down to Los Angeles twice, and we did a Skype call with the music director going over some of the songs, and then we had a final callback in September after we moved to California. Then they called me and said they had an audition for a different show, and that’s when they told me that I’d gotten the part of Ralphie.”

According to Andy, the role was a perfect fit due in large part to the physical resemblance between him and the original actor from the 1983 movie.

“My parents said that I’ve looked like Peter Billingsley since I was 3 years old,” Andy said. “So when this came up, we thought it would at least be a chance to see what it’s like to audition for a musical rather than just a straightforward TV show or movie. I don’t think any of us thought I would actually get it.”

In addition to looking so similar to the original Ralphie Parker, Andy has similar tastes in gifts.

“My dad gave me a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas,” Andy said. “He even hid it and made me look for it.”

The experience of “A Christmas Story Live!” was exceptionally rewarding due to the stars that he got to work with, such as Matthew Broderick, and what he got to learn from them.

“I learned a lot about how much work it takes to keep things moving on a live show, since Maya (Rudolph) and Chris (Diamontopoulos) and Ana (Gasteyer) and Matthew (Broderick) all had a lot of experience with performing live. Stuff goes wrong, but you have to work with whatever happens.

“I learned how to keep everything going when it’s not just acting. It’s singing and dancing and running from one set to the next between scenes, and changing costumes and making sure you always hit your cues no matter what.”

Andy’s favorite experience was in the moments right after the show when “I got big hugs and congratulations from Marc Platt, the producer, and from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the composers. That was so cool!”

The show received mixed reviews, with a 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 54 percent approval rating by Google users.

Despite the mixed reviews, Andy keeps a positive view moving forward.

“Most people have said they liked what I did, and a few people have said they hated it,” Andy said. “I take it on the chin and move on.”

Now that he, his parents and his sister have moved to California for good, his father, James, is able to be around his son’s career more than previously.

“We’d been living apart for a few months every year, with Andy and his mom in California while he was actively working, or during pilot season when he was chasing his next role," James said. “That meant his sister and I were staying in Mukilteo so she could keep going to school. After a couple of pilot seasons like this, we decided it was too hard to keep going this way, and we either needed to commit fully by moving to California permanently, or we needed to tell him it was time to step away until he was older and the logistics wouldn’t be so complicated.”

Ultimately, California won out, and Andy performed in his biggest role to date, which James is still blown away by.

“It’s been surreal for us,” James said. “When he first started this whole thing, I thought he’d maybe get two or three ‘Boy 5’, extra-type roles and that’d be it. We told him that if he hadn’t booked a role in the first year then we’d resume a normal life and he could do community theater and school plays. Then he landed a guest spot on NCIS, and has had one or two roles every year since.”

Despite what could be seen as an overwhelming experience, James feels his son has handled it all well. And more importantly, came out of the experience as the same Andy.

“Andy has shown us what a hard worker he is,” James said. “Rehearsals ran five to six days a week for nine-plus weeks, and he’d have to run through the same songs and scenes and choreography over and over again, and at night he’d come home hoarse and exhausted. But the next morning he’d be ready to go and do it all again.

“And now that it’s all over, I don’t think it’s changed him at all. He’s proud of what he’s done, but he knows how lucky he is. Once the cameras stopped rolling he went back to being the same kid he’s always been, only with a lot of new friends and experiences that’ll be with him forever.”

The response from friends and family has been overwhelming, according to James.

“I’ve had friends from as far back as elementary school reach out since the broadcast to tell me how much they enjoyed the whole show and what a wonderful job they think Andy did with it,” James said. “I’ve been blown away by the response to his performance in the broadcast. For every job he’s had, anybody who’s worked with him directly have all said that he’s polite and humble and hard-working and kind.”

As far as what the future holds for Andy Walken, he said he should have some news very soon.

“Pilot season starts in January, so there will be lots of new auditions, and hopefully I’ll have something new to talk about then,” Andy said.

Even though he’s “gone Hollywood,” Andy is still a Mukiltean at heart and even had a special message for one of his best friends back home.

“I want to say hi to one of my best friends, Ian, who delivers the Mukilteo Beacon in his neighborhood!”



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