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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : Adam Wylie’s interests go beyond ‘Picket Fences’ but that’s where his heart is

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Can a 10-year-old boy love the martial arts, roller-blading and ballroom dancing?

He can if he’s Adam Wylie, who stars as Zachary, the youngest Brock on “Picket Fences.” In addition to acting in CBS’ Emmy-winning drama, Adam also ice skates, is a black belt (his dad’s a master) in Kung Fu, and practices ballet, tap, hip-hop and jazz.

And, by the way, he also sings--well enough, in fact, to co-star as little teapot Chip in Disney’s stage production of “Beauty and the Beast,” which begins its run at the Shubert Theatre in Century City on March 21.

Meanwhile, audiences will get a bigger-than-usual dose of Adam in this week’s episode, when Zach’s older brother Matthew (Justin Shenkarow) nearly kills Zach in an accident.

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While there might not be anyone his age to play with on the set, he gets kudos from cast mates and crew.

“He’s an exceptional young man and exceptional actor as well,” says co-executive producer and director Michael Pressman, from his office on the Fox lot. “We love him on the show. He not only has great comic timing, but he’s also wonderful with the emotional scenes. We’ve seen a lot of changes and growth in his acting in the last two seasons.”

His mother, Karen Wylie, says Adam’s first time in a theater was when he was a mere 3 days old. The Wylie family has been involved in Claremont community theater for years.

Adam followed brothers Eric, 24 (who stars in the syndicated “Blade Warriors,” Saturday at noon on KCAL); Ben, 19 (who dances with the San Jose Ballet); Aaron 18, and sister Tai, 15, into the business. “It runs in the family,” Adam declares.

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“It actually began with sports,” his mom points out. Athletics evolved into the more theatrical figure skating, which led to stage acting and eventually television.

Adam’s first television job--at age 4--was a long-running Lifesavers commercial where he says, “I ask Dorothy (his petite companion), ‘Will you marry me?’ That’s probably my most popular one.” Adam went on to do 79 more commercials and appear on billboards and radio; his current commercial is the Sony plug in which the TV walks up the stairs.

But even though he just won lead voice in MGM’s “All Dogs Go to Heaven Part 2,” his heart is with his role in “Picket Fences.”

He likes acting quite a bit: “I get to play a lot of different parts. You get to do a lot of things, play different voices. I love to travel and I love the theater.”

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Stage fright is not in his vocabulary either. “I never get butterflies.”

Unlike many child actors who are educated exclusively by a tutor, Adam attends a regular fourth-grade class, where he occasionally is cautious of false friends. “Some people always want to know how much money I make, and I know they want to be my friend because of money. I have to be very careful.”

Someone Adam would be friends with is Zach. “He can be very loving and I’m loving and he can be very active and I’m very active and he’s very curious and I am like that too.”

For 1995, Adam has a goal: “I want to start playing ice hockey and doing that on Saturdays.”

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And with enthusiasm and proven physical skills, Adam’s “dream thing"--as he puts it--doesn’t seem so far-fetched: “My dream thing would be to win a gold medal in the Olympics in gymnastics. And I’d love to be just really famous and keep being an actor. I’d just love to be an actor. And oh yeah, do a big movie.”

“Picket Fences” airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on CBS.


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