by Deborah Rieselman
Since Justin Smith was a toddler, he has wished broken legs on total strangers -- not in the literal sense, of course, but in the theatrical one. Yelling "break a leg" has been his automatic response anytime someone waves at him. After all, that's what the 5-year-old grew up saying whenever his actress mother, Diana Maria Riva, a UC alumna, headed out the door.
Los Angeles youngsters with parents who work in front of cameras simply look at life a little differently than the rest of the world. And life is different for the families of drama alumni from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Take 7-year-old Henry Solomon, for instance. When he started school, his alumnus dad, Philip, had to sit the little guy down and explain why he shouldn't act so surprised when his friends talked about their parents' occupation. Other parents don't "juggle fire while walking on a wire," he explained, trying to suppress a laugh. "After being with all my friends in the circus community, he thought every dad could do aerial work on a trapeze and breathe flame balls," recalls Philip, who works with Cirque Du Soleil. "That's what all adults do in his world. So he's kind of adjusting to that now."
Riva sums it up nicely, "We're cool parents."
Welcome to Hollywood's world of rising stars -- a place where actors laugh at the fact they're better known for their Imodium AD commercials than their movie credits. It's a life of constant auditions and frequent rejections. But it's also a life where actors get married, buy houses and try to raise kids in a normal lifestyle even though paychecks and schedules are highly unpredictable.