Chris Candy has never been all that interested in spending the currency of his father’s famous last name.
Never mind that his late father, John Candy, charmed a generation of moviegoers with characters now ubiquitous and familiar, like Uncle Buck or the polka player in that one movie about a kid whose vacation-bound family leaves him behind. The younger Candy sees himself as just another working stiff, a journeyman actor who takes classes, hones his craft and grinds it out one role at a time.
“When you’re the son of a celebrity, primarily an actor, you go through a period where you want an identity separate from your parent’s, and I certainly went through that,” Candy said. “But you realize it’s part of you as you get older, even though you’re your own person.”
Candy, who turned 30 this year, scored his first leading film role in Bar America, a small indie flick making the rounds on the festival circuit now. In it, Candy plays Charlie, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who stars with his friend Hank in a local viral video show. Some opportunistic producers eventually come along, Candy explains, and take advantage of Charlie’s and Hank’s naiveté by poorly representing Bar America for their own financial gain, which threatens to ruin the pair’s friendship.
Candy started taking acting classes a few years before auditioning for Bar America, studying under the esteemed coach Bill Howey as well as working on his improv skills at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater.
Not only are the father-son comparisons now inevitable because of the acting credits he’s racking up, it’s hard to look at Candy and not see traces of the same mix of mischief and decency with which his father animated his beloved body of work. But while it all might sound like a too-obvious professional destination — in front of the camera, delivering lines, improvising, just like his old man — it should be noted that Candy stuck to back roads on his way here, and he never stopped to ask for directions.
“My father was a loving person and would have been supportive no matter what I chose,” says Candy. “I was lucky to grow up in a creative family. My mother is an artist and ceramicist, and my sister is an actress as well.”
Candy’s sister Jennifer has appeared in TV shows like According to Jim and Mad TV. She was 14 when their father died in 1994, and her brother was 9.
“The two of us have always had an understanding of the patience and drive — what it takes to make it in this business,” says Candy. “I’ve also always had my own competitive edge, wanting to create my own content that’s in my own voice.”
To that end, music was one of the creative spaces to which Candy gravitated early on. A self-described band geek, he picked up the trumpet starting in sixth grade, and today he’s the lead singer for Chotto Ghetto, an L.A. outfit he describes as a “wild, experimental punk rock” band. The band is putting out a record next year, he says, with shows and touring to follow. He’s also written and acted in a web series called Art with Edward, for example, which satirizes the world of art and art critique, and he stars in another called Where’s This Party?
“My father was such an amazing, creative force,” Candy said. “I knew that from an early age. As I got older, I noticed his genius and depth as an actor and comedian even more.”
Candy doesn’t shy away from questions about his father but makes it clear that he’s dabbled in acting for a while now on his own terms. “I still play music, and I also work hard at my craft as an actor, taking classes once a week,” Candy said. “Just like every other sector when you’re starting out, the daily grind of being an actor is very competitive. But I love acting. It’s a great business to be a part of. For me, it’s also important to create my own content.”
Andy Meek, based in Memphis, has written for publications including Fast Company, Buzzfeed and TIME. He tweets at @tdnandy.